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Jesmyn Ward triumphs at National Book Awards

17th November 2011

Jesmyn Ward was one of the big winners at the 62nd National Book Awards, with her novel Salvage the Bones triumphing in the fiction category.

In doing so, Ward beat off stiff competition from a strong shortlist that included 2011 Orange Fiction Prize for Fiction winner Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife and said her literary journey has 'only just begun'.

Other victors on the night included Stephen Greenblatt, whose book The Swerve: How the World Became Modern won the non-fiction prize, while Nikky Finney's poetry collection Head Off & Split was also honoured.

The young people's literature award, which had attracted a great deal of controversy prior to the ceremony, was won by Thanhha Lai for Inside Out & Back Again.

Lauren Myracle's Shine had been accidentally named on the shortlist after being confused with Franny Billingsley's Chime, leading to Myracle withdrawing from contention when she discovered the reason for her inclusion.

The event also saw poet John Ashbery presented with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in recognition of his life's work.

Admitting that his early poetry was 'in the grand tradition of being hard to understand', Ashbery said writing now gives him a pleasure he can 'almost taste' and said the difficulty of creating new poems is 'embedded in the pleasure'.

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