Zadie Smith, Anna Burns among winners of critics prizes

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NEW YORK (AP) — Anna Burns' "Milkman," her Booker Prize-winning novel about an 18-year-old girl during "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland, has been awarded the National Book Critics Circle prize for fiction. Zadie Smith, best known for such novels as "White Teeth" and "On Beauty," received the criticism award for her essay collection "Feel Free."

Steve Coll was the nonfiction winner for "Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's secret wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan," his sequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Ghost Wars." Nora Krug's "Belonging: A German Reckons With History and Home" received the award for autobiography. Others winners Thursday night included Ada Limón's "The Carrying" for poetry and "Christopher Bonanos' "Flash," about the photographer Weegee, for biography.

All the winners but Burns, a resident of the United Kingdom, were in attendance Thursday night at the New School in Manhattan. The acceptance speeches were expressions of gratitude for everyone from agents and editors to literary heroes and mentors, and the general theme was one of contrasting the perceived solitude of writing with the sense of community the winners felt. As Limón told the hundreds gathered, she "never wrote a poem alone." Krug, meanwhile, recalled having a dream in which she had fallen asleep at the ceremony, and woke up in time to see a "more deserving" nominee get the award.

"I'm glad to say my dreams have not come true," she said.

Honorary prizes were presented to NPR critic Maureen Corrigan and the Latino publisher Arte Publico, which helped launch the career of Sandra Cisneros and numerous other writers. Tommy Orange's novel "There There" was named winner of best debut book. Orange is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, and has been widely praised as a gifted new voice.

"It's a good moment (for Native American writers) that I hope doesn't come and go as it has in the past," he said.

The critics circle was founded in 1974 and includes around 800 reviewers, authors, bloggers and others in the books community.

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