National Book Awards Honoree Relishes Surprise Win | EW.com

Books

National Book Awards Honoree Relishes Surprise Win

Author James McBride wins for his slavery novel ''The Good Lord Bird''

On the night he won the National Book Award for fiction at a Nov. 20 gala in New York, James McBride didn’t think his slavery novel The Good Lord Bird had a shot. Best known for his memoir, The Color of Water, McBride was up against literary heavyweights Jhumpa Lahiri, Thomas Pynchon, and George Saunders, and his own pick to win: Rachel Kushner for The Flamethrowers. “It’s one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to me,” he says, adding with a laugh, “but I hope I never have to go through that again.” The good news: McBride’s publisher, Riverhead, plans to print 45,000 more copies of The Good Lord Bird. The bad news: The author was still too shy to approach Toni Morrison at the gala. “I didn’t want to interrupt her dessert.”