Two Minneapolis writers and a poet with Minnesota roots are finalists for the National Book Award. Louise Erdrich has been nominated for "The Round House," her novel about rape and justice on an Indian reservation and the second in a planned trilogy. The first book, "Plague of Doves," was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
And William Alexander is a finalist in young people's literature for his first novel, "Goblin Secrets."
The call came Tuesday night, with the writers sworn to secrecy until Wednesday's announcement. "Yesterday was actually my birthday," Alexander said. "I was thrilled but also half-convinced it was a birthday prank." Alexander teaches writing at MCAD. "Goblin Secrets" is a fantasy. "It's not set in the world we know," he said. "We just get dropped right in the middle of a very strange city."
His second book, "Ghoulish Song," will be published in March, exploring the same world at the same time but from a different perspective. "So you can see both books happening in the background of each other," he said.
Other finalists in fiction are Talking Volumes guest (and recent Genius Grant recipient) Junot Diaz for "This is How You Lose Her"; Dave Eggers, "A Hologram for the King"; Ben Fountain, "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," and Kevin Powers, "The Yellow Birds."
Nonfiction: Anne Applebaum, "Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe"; Katherine Boo, "Behind the Beautiful Forevers"; Robert A. Caro, "The Passage of Power"; Domingo Martinez, "The Boy King of Texas," and Anthony Shadid, "House of Stone."
Poetry: Susan Wheeler, who grew up in Minnesota, "Meme"; David Ferry, "Bewilderment"; Cynthia Huntington, "Heavenly Bodies"; Tim Seibles, "Fast Animal," and Alan Shapiro, "Night of the Republic."
In addition to Alexander, finalists for young people's literature are Carrie Arcos, "Out of Reach"; Patricia McCormick, "Never Fall Down"; Eliot Schrefer, "Endangered," and Steve Sheinkin, "Bomb."
The winners will be named Nov. 14.
Only a handful of Minnesota writers have won a National Book Award, which began in the 1930s. J.F. Powers was the first, in 1963, for his novel "Morte d'Urban," and T.J. Stiles was the most recent, winning in 2009 for "The First Tycoon," his biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, which also won the Pulitzer Prize.
HONOR: A bridge in the Bahamas is being renamed to honor Sidney Poitier as part of next month's 40th anniversary celebration of Bahamian independence. Poitier, 88, has been Bahamian ambassador to Japan and UNESCO. The Oscar-winning Poitier was born in the United States but spent much of his childhood on Cat Island in the central Bahamas.