“I do think there’s a bottom line to writing. What a writer is supposed to do is pay attention....Paying attention is the only thing that guarantees an insight, and it’s the only real weapon we have against power because we can’t fight the things you can’t actually see.”

—Michelle Dean, recipient of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

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“Let us be fierce and dangerous about the truth. Let it come out of us, let it pour out of us. Let us find in that truth a strength to bear the truth, and find...the strength to demand the truth of our government.” —Louise Erdrich, author of fiction winner LaRose

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“Most of all I’d like to thank the people I met in Milwaukee, who taught me far more than I [could] record in the pages of Evicted. This award is an affirmation of their lives, their guts, their humor, and their ingenuity in the face of adversity. It’s an affirmation of their graceful refusal to be reduced to their hardships, and it’s an affirmation of their children, who remind us that poverty diminishes people born for better things.” —Matthew Desmond, author of nonfiction winner Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

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NBCC awardees (l-r) Carol Anderson, Yaa Gyasi, Michelle Dean, Ruth Franklin, Louise Erdrich, Matthew Desmond, Margaret Atwood, and Ishion Hutchinson 

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“I’m too superstitious to have actually prepared anything to say, so this is going to be very short.” —Ruth Franklin, author of biography winner Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

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“Having grown up in Minnesota, I am not unfamiliar with sudden spring snowstorms, the dashed hopes and ruined plans. When I was 13 years old, 13-odd inches of blizzard kept me from the front row of a Thompson Twins concert....You may remember them as the band behind the one-hit wonder, (sings) “Hold Me Now.” I remember I cried all night in disappointment. Well, this hurts worse.” —Hope Jahren, author of autobiography winner Lab Girl, who was unable to leave Norway to accept the award, in a statement read (and sung) by Knopf editor Robin Desser

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“I was hoping to avoid the mic. I’m so nervous. It’s like Biblical astonishment.” —Ishion Hutchinson, author of poetry winner House of Lords and Commons, who accepted the award in memory of his grandmother, Mae Hutchinson

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CArol_NBCC “I want to thank above all my parents, who came from nothing but gave me the fight and gave me the ability to see that we could be so much more than we are—there’s so much more.” —Carol Anderson, author of criticism winner White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide

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“Why do I only get one lifetime? Where did this one go?” —Margaret Atwood, who, nevertheless, said she would “cherish” the “mixed blessing” of the Irving Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award

Megan Labrise writes “Field Notes” and features for Kirkus Reviews and is the co-host of the Kirkus podcast, Fully Booked. All photos courtesy of Marisol Diaz.