James McBride is the 2013 winner of the National Book Award for fiction. His book The Good Lord Bird imagines a teenage boy escaping slavery to join abolitionist John Brown during his raid on Harpers Ferry on 1859.
Not expecting to win the prestigious prize (he was up against writers like Jhumpa Lahiri and Thomas Pynchon), McBride admitted he had not prepared a speech at last night's awards dinner. "It sure is nice to get it," he joked. Judges called his "a voice as comic and original as any we have heard since Mark Twain." Winners of the annual prize receive $10, 000 and a bronze statue.
McBride, a former journalist, is best known for his 1996 memoir The Color of Water, about his life as the child of a White mother and Black father.
ESSENCE congratulates James McBride.