Annal: 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 2003.

Book:Sons of Mississippi

Sons of Mississippi: A Story of Race and Its Legacy

Paul Hendrickson

Sons of Mississippi recounts the story of seven white Mississippi lawmen depicted in a horrifically telling 1962 Life magazine photograph—and of the racial intolerance that is their legacy.

In that photograph, which appears on the front of this jacket, the lawmen (six sheriffs and a deputy sheriff) admire a billy club with obvious pleasure, preparing for the unrest they anticipate—and to which they clearly intend to contribute—in the wake of James Meredith’s planned attempt to integrate the University of Mississippi. In finding the stories of these men, Paul Hendrickson gives us an extraordinarily revealing picture of racism in America at that moment. But his ultimate focus is on the part this legacy has played in the lives of their children and grandchildren.

One of them is a grandson—a high school dropout and many times married—who achieves an elegant poignancy in his struggle…[more]

Book:The Bounty

The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty

Caroline Alexander

More than two centuries have passed since Master’s Mate Fletcher Christian mutinied against Lieutenant Bligh on a small, armed transport vessel called Bounty. Why the details of this obscure adventure at the end of the world remain vivid and enthralling is as intriguing as the truth behind the legend.

In giving the Bounty mutiny its historical due, Caroline Alexander has chosen to frame her narrative by focusing on the court-martial of the ten mutineers who were captured in Tahiti and brought to justice in England. This fresh perspective wonderfully revivifies the entire saga, and the salty, colorful language of the captured men themselves conjures the events of that April morning in 1789, when Christian’s breakdown impelled every man on a fateful course: Bligh and his loyalists on the historic open boat voyage that revealed him to be one of history’s great navigators; Christian on his restless exile; and the captured…[more]

Book:Gulag: A History

Gulag: A History

Anne Applebaum

The Gulag—the vast array of Soviet concentration camps—was a system of repression and punishment whose rationalized evil and institutionalized inhumanity were rivaled only by the Holocaust.

The Gulag entered the world’s historical consciousness in 1972, with the publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s epic oral history of the Soviet camps, The Gulag Archipelago. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, dozens of memoirs and new studies covering aspects of that system have been published in Russia and the West. Using these new resources as well as her own original historical research, Anne Applebaum has now undertaken, for the first time, a fully documented history of the Soviet camp system, from its origins in the Russian Revolution to its collapse in the era of glasnost. It is an epic feat of investigation and moral reckoning that places the Gulag where it belongs: at the center of our understanding of the troubled history of the twentieth…[more]

Book:Random Family

Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

Random Family tells the American outlaw saga lurking behind the headlines of gangsta glamour, gold-drenched drug dealers, and street-corner society. With an immediacy made possible only after ten years of reporting, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc immerses the reader in the mind-boggling intricacies of the little-known ghetto world. She charts the tumultuous cycle of the generations, as girls become mothers, mothers become grandmothers, boys become criminals, and hope struggles against deprivation.

Two romances thread through Random Family: the sexually charismatic nineteen-year-old Jessica’s dizzying infatuation with a hugely successful young heroin dealer, Boy George, and fourteen-year-old Coco’s first love with Jessica’s little brother, Cesar, an aspiring thug. Fleeing from family problems, the young couples try to outrun their destinies. Chauffeurs whisk them to getaways in the Poconos and to nightclubs. They cruise the streets in Lamborghinis and customized James Bond cars. Jessica…[more]

Book:Rising Up and Rising Down

Rising Up and Rising Down

William T. Vollmann

A labor of seventeen years, Vollmann’s first book of non-fiction since 1992’s An Afghanistan Picture Show is a gravely urgent invitation to look back at the world’s long, bloody path and find some threads of meaning, wisdom, and guidance to plot a moral course. From the street violence of prostitutes and junkies to the centuries-long battles between the Native Americans and European colonists,Vollmann’s mesmerizing imagery and compelling logic is presented with authority born of astounding research and personal experience.

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