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2002 National Book Awards Winners Announced - 2002-11-21

The National Book Foundation has selected its 2002 winners for its annual awards in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature. The winners of one of the most prestigious awards in the U.S. publishing industry were announced at a ceremony late Wednesday in New York.

The National Book Foundation says the authors of the 20 books nominated for the 2002 National Book Awards address a "fascinating range of issues, ideas and characters to tell their stories."

Christopher Merrill, head of the non-fiction panel, says he and his fellow judges noted an astonishing variety of subjects for consideration this year.

"No corner of American experience had gone unexamined, from manners to murder and everything in between," he said. "In histories and biographies and memoirs and works of political analysis, travel, science and nature, writers are synthesizing vast amounts of information and argument, and the books that made the deepest impressions on us were the ones that revealed some part of our world in a bold new way."

The non-fiction book selected was Robert Caro's Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson. The third book in his lengthy biographical series on the former U.S. president.

Mr. Caro was unable to attend the ceremony. In a written message, the author said he does not consider his biographies as merely about the lives of famous people. He believes his books are studies in political power, how it is acquired and used, and its effects on the people on whom, or for whom, it is used.

The author's publisher, Sonny Mehta, read the message, which included a thank you to the subject of the prize-winning book.

"And I'll tell you someone else for whom I feel gratitude: Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th president of the United States. I'm really lucky to be following the career and trying to untangle and understand the manipulations and devices by which Lyndon Johnson acquired and used, for good and for ill, political power," Mr. Mehta read.

The fiction award went to Julia Glass for her first published novel, Three Junes. Set during three summers, the book explores love in the lives of a Scottish family that makes peace with its past, and embraces its future.

Ms. Glass noted the power of books to transport readers anywhere.

"Books are these amazing objects that are just very homely but transmute themselves into something completely different when you read them, a book can be a sailing vessel, a magic rabbit hole, a tree house, a fabulous rich dessert, the wise, crusty grandmother you lost when you were too young to need her to be around you."

First novels made a remarkable impression in 2002, according to the chair of the fiction panel, Bob Shacochis, who paid special tribute to the new authors selected as finalists.

"More than anything else in American fiction in 2002, this was the year of the thunderclap debut," he said. "I would very much like to salute the whole crowd of miracle babies," he said. "These debuts and spectacular second novels fill and possess the literary horizon like an artillery barrage, and secure the promise of a new generation of brilliant writers for the new American century."

Ruth Stone received the poetry prize for her eighth book, In the Next Galaxy, in which she writes from her vantage point as an woman in her eighties, revealing a passion for knowing how the world works.

Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion, a futuristic story about a clone struggling to understand his existence, took home the Young People's Literature award.

Novelist Philip Roth was awarded the 2002 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He has won numerous awards for his works, including two National Book Awards, over his four-decade career.