2020 Winners of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography/Autobiography
by Amy Stanley
The daughter of a Buddhist priest, Tsuneno was born in a rural Japanese village and was expected to live a traditional life much like her mother's. But after three divorces--and a temperament much too strong-willed for her family's approval — she ran away to make a life for herself in one of the largest cities in the world: Edo, a bustling metropolis at its peak.
With Tsuneno as our guide, we experience the drama and excitement of Edo just prior to the arrival of American Commodore Perry's fleet, which transformed Japan. During this pivotal moment in Japanese history, Tsuneno bounces from tenement to tenement, marries a masterless samurai, and eventually enters the service of a famous city magistrate. Tsuneno's life provides a window into 19th-century Japanese culture — and a rare view of an extraordinary woman who sacrificed her family and her reputation to make a new life for herself, in defiance of social conventions.
Immersive and fascinating, Stranger in the Shogun's City is a revelatory work of history, layered with rich detail and delivered with beautiful prose, about the life of a woman, a city, and a culture.
by Cathy Park Hong
A ruthlessly honest, emotionally charged, and utterly original exploration of Asian American consciousness and the struggle to be human.
Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative — and its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, will change the way you think about our world.
Binding these essays together is Hong's theory of "minor feelings." As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these "minor feelings" occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality — when you believe the lies you're told about your own racial identity. Minor feelings are not small, they're dissonant — and in their tension Hong finds the key to the questions that haunt her.
With sly humor and a poet's searching mind, Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. This intimate and devastating book traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and female friendship. A radically honest work of art, Minor Feelings forms a portrait of one Asian American psyche — and of a writer's search to both uncover and speak the truth.
Every year, the National Book Critics Circle of over 700 book reviewers from all parts of the country present awards for the finest books published in English. Categories include: Fiction, General Nonfiction, Biography/Autobiography, Poetry, and Criticism.