George Takei, Ocean Vuong win American book awards

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NEW YORK — Fiction by Ocean Vuong and Yoko Ogawa, a prison memoir by Alfred Woodfox and a graphic memoir based on actor George Takei’s childhood in a U.S. internment camp for Japanese Americans are the among the winners of the 41st annual American Book Awards.

The awards were announced Monday by the Before Columbus Foundation, which champions diversity in literature.

Vuong was cited for his novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” and Ogawa for “The Memory Police,” a National Book Award finalist last fall for best translated book (Stephen Snyder translated the novel from the Japanese). Takei worked with writers Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott and illustrator Harmony Scott on “They Called Us Enemy,” in which he remembers being forced into a camp at age 4, during World War II

Others books honoured Monday included Woodfox’s “Solitary,” a National Book Award finalist for nonfiction; Reginald Dwayne Betts’ poetry collection “Felon”; Kali Fajardo−Anstine’s story collection, “Sabrina & Corina,” a National Book Award finalist for fiction; and Erika Lee’s “America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States.”

Eleanor W. Traylor, a scholar of African American literature, received a lifetime achievement honour. Kofi Natambu of The Panopticon Review was given an editor award, and performance poet Amalia Leticia Ortiz was cited for contributions to oral literature.

The winners will be formally recognized during an online ceremony Oct. 25.

The Before Columbus Foundation, “dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of contemporary American multicultural literature,” was founded by Ishmael Reed in 1976.

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