Katherine Boo wins U.S. national nonfiction award for Mumbai book

Thu Nov 15, 2012 12:18pm IST

Katherine Boo is seen in this file photo April 11, 2000. REUTERS/Stringer

Katherine Boo is seen in this file photo April 11, 2000.

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REUTERS - Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo won the National Book Award for nonfiction on Wednesday for her first book, "Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity," which sheds light on the lives of India's poor as well as government corruption.

Boo, a former Washington Post editor and New Yorker writer who between November 2007 and March 2011 spent time in a Mumbai slum to experience life in contemporary India. She was praised widely for the book, which some critics said read more like a novel.

Boo told Reuters in March that her biggest barrier in the slums had been the "many, many languages spoken," and she gave credit to a group of translators. "I also needed someone to work with me the way I worked - slowly and patiently," she said.

Author Louise Erdrich won the award for fiction for "The Round House," a moving novel about a woman raped in a Native American community, at the annual awards ceremony in New York.

Competition for the prize included such well-known authors as Junot Diaz and Dave Eggers, as well as Ben Fountain and debut novelist Kevin Powers.

The gala ceremony at which the awards were announced was designed to bring buzz to an industry that has been shaken up in its efforts to transition to the digital marketplace.

David Ferry's "Bewilderment" won the award for poetry and William Alexander's "Goblin Secrets" won the young people's literature award.

Novelist Elmore Leonard and New York Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. received lifetime achievement honours.

The National Book Foundation, which administers the awards, nominated five writers in each of four categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature.

The four winning writers each received a $10,000 prize.

(Reporting by Christine Kearney; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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