Susan Choi wins National Book Award for fiction

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — The American novelist Susan Choi and László Krasznahorkai of Hungary won prizes at the 2019 National Book Awards. 

Choi, whose mother is Jewish and whose father is of Korean descent, on Wednesday won in the fiction category for “Trust Exercise,” a novel set in an American suburb in the 1980s about an arts high school and its students.

“Choi’s virtuoso accomplishment on the sentence level is often extraordinary—and pivots in astonishing and non-traditional directions while conforming to traditional ideas of excellence,” the judges wrote about her book.

Krasznahorkai, a Hungarian-Jewish author, won in the translated literature category for “Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming,” a fictional work set in modern Hungary about a gambler’s return to a rural settlement. The 65-year-old author, who won the Man Booker International Prize in 2015, shares the award with translator Ottilie Mulzet.


The book is a “universe populated with rogues and visionaries, at once epic and intimate, apocalyptic and deeply comic,” the judges wrote, adding: “Singular and uncompromising, ‘Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming’ is a masterpiece by one of the great writers of our time.”

Sarah M. Broom won the nonfiction category for “The Yellow House,” which tells the story of her family in a poor part of New Orleans.

Arthur Sze won in the poetry category with “Sight Lines,” while “1919 — The Year That Changed America” won the young people’s literature category for Martin W. Sandler.

It is the 70th edition of the National Book Awards.