Next up was the Translated Literature award, which went to Japanese author Yu Miri, for Tokyo Ueno Station, translated by Morgan Giles. In her speech, Miri thanked the people of Fukushima, where she lives, and recalled the terrible earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown of 2011. The book is narrated by a ghost—originally from Fukushima but now haunting a Tokyo train station; our critic Michael Schaub called it "a stunning novel, and a harsh, uncompromising look at existential despair."
The Poetry prize went to poet and translator Don Mee Choi, for her collection DMZ Colony, which explores lives affected by colonization and war. In an emotional speech, Choi dedicated the award to her father. "Poetry and translation have changed my life," she said. "For me, they are inseparable."
Tamara Payne accepted the Nonfiction prize for The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X, a monumental biography begun by her father, journalist Les Payne, who spent decades interviewing anyone who'd ever known the late Black activist. Tamara Payne was her father's primary researcher and finished the book after his death in 2018. "Definitive is a word we must use carefully when talking about biographies because it implies a degree of finality that research and new information may prove wrong," says our reviewer Gabino Iglesias. "That said, Les and Tamara Payne's The Dead Are Arising is, for now, the definitive biography of Malcolm X."
And finally, the Fiction prize went to Charles Yu for Interior Chinatown, told from the point of view of a struggling actor most often seen as a generic Asian man in the background of a restaurant or a crime scene. Yu seemed taken aback by his victory, briefly wordless. "I prepared nothing, which tells you how realistic I thought this was," he joked, wiping away a tear. "There's not many reasons for hope right now, but to be here, hearing about all of these books, having read some of them, going on to read many more of them, it is what keeps me going, and I hope that this community can sustain other people in the same way."