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Diverse winners honored at 85th Cal Book Awards

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Viet Thanh Nguyen adds a California Book Award to his collection of honors for “The Sympathizer.” (Courtesy photo)

Viet Thanh Nguyen and Jill Leovy have joined the ranks of John Steinbeck, Wallace Stegner, Amy Tan and Ray Bradbury, as winners of the Commonwealth Club-sponsored California Book Awards.

The 85th annual awards, which honor the best published writing in California — fiction, nonfiction, poetry, children’s literature and more — are being celebrated with a ceremony Monday in The City, followed by a book signing.

Nguyen, gold medalist for first fiction, won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Sympathizer,” his searing novel about the toll of the war for the Vietnamese after the fall — or liberation — of Saigon.

Leovy, winner for nonfiction, wrote “Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America” based on her years as a Los Angeles Times crime correspondent, digging deep into the under-reported homicide epidemic in the Southern California city’s poor and minority neighborhoods.

Posthumous winner for fiction is Lucia Berlin, for the short story collection “A Manual for Cleaning Women.”

Mary Ellen Hannibal, chair of the awards, points to “an amazing diversity of voices” among the honorees, whose “compelling” work provides “historical context, relentless questioning, and the salve of true art.”

Sponsored by Bank of the West, the event also includes a raffle for a set of this year’s award-winning books,

2016 Gold and silver winners
Fiction: Lucia Berlin, “A Manual for Cleaning Women”; Ernest J. Finney, “Elevation: 6,040”
First fiction: Viet Thanh Nguyen, “The Sympathizer”
Nonfiction: Jill Leovy, “Ghettoside”; Steve Silberman, “NeuroTribes”
Juvenile: Alex Gino, “George”
Young adult: Neal Shusterman, “Challenger Deep”; Andrew Smith, “The Alex Crow”
Poetry: Beth Murray, ”Cancer Angel”
Californiana: Tom Killion, “California’s Wild Edge”
Contribution to publishing: “The Collected Letters of Robinson Jeffers” edited by James Karman

IF YOU GO
California Book Awards
Where: Commonwealth Club, 555 Post St., S.F.
When: 6 p.m. June 13
Tickets: $10
Contact: (415) 597-6700, www.commomwealthclub.org

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