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The 2012 National Book Awards took place tonight, when accolades were given in each of four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature.

The winners were:

Fiction: Louise Erdrich, The Round House

Non-Fiction: Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

Poetry: David Ferry, Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations

Young People’s Literature: William Alexander, Goblin Secrets

Erdrich said “I would like to accept this in recognition of the grace and the endurance of native women.” Though fiction, her book is about what she described as an “ongoing injustice”, detailing a crime on the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. Erdrich is of Native American descent, and began her acceptance speech in the Ojibwe language.

Boo’s book is about the slums of Mumbai, a place she has been visiting for more than a decade. “Small stories in so-called hidden places matter,” she said in accepting the award.

The oldest winner was the 88-year-old poet David Ferry, who described his win as “pre-posthumous.” The Young People’s winner, William Alexander, quoted Ursula Le Guin in accepting the award for his fantasy novel, Goblin Secrets: “The literature of the imagination is important because it gives us a world large enough to contain alternatives, and it gives us hope.”

Additionally, Elmore Leonard and Arthur O. Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times, were given Lifetime Achievement Awards, Leonard for his body of work and Sulzberger for the Times Book Review‘s contributions to the literary community.

Martin Amis presented Leonard with his award, “Whereas genre fiction relies on plot, mainstream fiction famously only has about 12 plots… Mr Leonard only has one plot – all his stories are retellings of Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale, in which death stalks the land, disguised as money.”

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