James McBride was the surprise winner of the National Book Award in fiction. The writer, who’s black and grew up in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Houses, won the award for his novel “The Good Lord Bird,” which chronicles the experiences of a teenage runaway slave.
Considered an underdog in a category filled with critically acclaimed names, McBride said that he wrote the book amid the deaths of his mother and niece. “It was always nice to have somebody whose world I could just fall into and follow him around,” he said. The author was previously known most for his memoir, “The Color of Water.”
New Yorker staff writer George Packer won the non-fiction award for his book, “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America.”
Japanese-American writer Cynthia Kadohata won the award for young people’s literature with her book, “The Thing About Luck.”
Toni Morrison presented Maya Angelou with the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.