November 20, 2008

Hemings book wins national award

The National Book Award for non-fiction was bestowed on Annette Gordon-Reed in New York Wednesday night for her book, The Hemingses of Monticello.

Gordon-Reed's book tells the multigenerational story of the family of Sally Hemings, a black slave owned by President Thomas Jefferson and alleged to have had at least one child by him.

In accepting the award, Gordon-Reed talked of the journey that black people in this country have been on since the Hemingses were owned by Jefferson, The Washington Post reported. With the election of Barack Obama as president, she added, all of America is on a great journey now.

The fiction award went to Peter Matthiessen for his Shadow Country, a 900-page novel based on Florida pioneer, murderer and murder victim Edgar J. Watson.

Mark Doty won the poetry award for his Fire to Fire, while the young people's literature award went to Judy Blundell for What I Saw and How I Lied.

Maxine Hong Kingston, who wrote The Woman Warrior and China Men, accepted a medal for distinguished contribution to American letters. Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset was honored for outstanding service to the American literary community.