Téa Obreht a finalist for National Book Award

New fiction writers emerged to prominence in the nominations for the U.S. National Book Awards, including Téa Obreht, winner of the Orange Prize.

Malcolm X biography nominated for non-fiction prize

Tea Obreht poses with her book The Tiger's Wife before winning the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction on June 8. She has been nominated for the U.S. National Book Award. (Sang Tan/Associated Press)

New fiction writers emerged to prominence in the nominations for the U.S. National Book Awards, released Wednesday.

Among them are debut novelist Téa Obreht for The Tiger’s Wife, a work that took the Orange Prize in June.

Obreht, 26, has been widely praised for her novel. It follows a young doctor in a Balkan country who is haunted by stories of the past, including her grandfather’s war years. Obreht, born in the former Yugoslavia, but raised in the U.S., has also been hailed as one of The New Yorker magazine’s top 20 American fiction writers under age 40.

Nominees for the $10,000 US National Book Awards in fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children’s literature were announced Wednesday during a broadcast on an Oregon radio station. The section juries chose the short-listed books from more than 1,200 submissions.

Two fiction nominees come from small presses: Edith Pearlman’s short story collection Binocular Vision from Lookout Books and Andrew Krivak's The Sojourn from Bellevue Literary Press.

Also nominated in the fiction category are Julie Otsuka's second novel The Buddha in the Attic, which follows the experiences of Japanese women coming to America in the early 1900s, and Salvage the Bones, a second novel from Jesmyn Ward, about a family facing a hurricane in a Mississippi town.

Malcolm X biography nominated

Manning Marable’s controversial biography of black activist Malcolm X, a book he worked on for more than 20 years, is among the non-fiction nominees. Manning, a professor of history and African-American studies at Columbia University in New York, died in April, just days before the book was published. 

His Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention cast doubts on the official story of Malcolm X's 1965 assassination and recast his own accounts of his life, alleging he had exaggerated his criminal past and had taken part in a homosexual relationship.

"He wanted to get past the legend and present Malcolm as a complex human being," said Marable's widow, Leith Mullings. "It's very bittersweet, the nomination. I'm heartbroken that he can't be here to have been part of this recognition. On the other hand, it's wonderful that he finished the book." 

Other finalists for the non-fiction prize:

  • Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve, about the influence of Lucretius's On the Nature of Things on modern thinking.
  • Deborah Baker, The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism, about a young American woman who becomes an Islamic extremist.
  • Mary Gabriel, Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution, a biography of the couple.
  • Lauren Redniss, Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout, about the scientists who were pioneers in research into radioactivity.

Baker is a previous nominee for the Pulitzer Prize.

The poetry jury chose some of the biggest names in the field, among them 82-year-old Adrienne Rich, nominated for Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010.

Other poetry finalists:

  • Carl Phillips, Double Shadow
  • Yusef Komunyakaa, The Chameleon Couch.
  • Nikky Finney, Head Off & Split.
  • Bruce Smith, Devotions.

The nominees for children’s literature are:

  • Franny Billingsley, Chime.
  • Laura Myracle, Shine. 
  • Debby Dahl Edwardson, My Name Is Not Easy.
  • Thanhha Lai, Inside Out and Back Again.
  • Albert Marrin, Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy.
  • Gary D. Schmidt, Okay for Now.

Winners will be announced at a Nov. 16 ceremony in New York hosted by actor and author John Lithgow.

Honorary prizes will be presented to poet John Ashbery and Florida-based bookseller Mitchell Kaplan. 


  • An earlier version of this story left off Franny Billingsley's Chime as a nominee for a National Book Award for children's literature. Prize organizers mistakenly issued the wrong name on the short list and have allowed both Chime and Shine by Laura Myracle to compete.
    Oct 14, 2011 12:23 PM ET

With files from The Associated Press