John Leonard Winner: ‘I am grateful for the sacrifices my parents made…’

by Yaa Gyasi | Mar-21-2017

I’m so grateful to be here celebrating with all of you tonight.  Thank you to the National Book Critics Circle for this tremendous honor. Thank you also to Sue Leonard and to the late John Leonard for championing new writers.  What a privilege it is to be recognized for the John Leonard award tonight.

I’d also like to thank my brilliant editor, Jordan Pavlin, my firecracker of a publicist Josie McGehee, and my endlessly encouraging agent Eric Simonoff, all of whom believed in this book so very fiercely.  

Another thank you goes to Matthew Nelson-Teutsch for his exquisite partnership.  

Finally, I’d like to thank my family, especially my parents Kwaku and Sophia Gyasi who came to this country with little more than the clothes on their backs and the children in their arms. In a time where it feels like every day immigrants and refugees are being met with new affronts to their humanity, I am even more grateful for the sacrifices that my parents made so that I could one day stand here before all of you and accept this award.


All 2016 NBCC award winners here.

View video of NBCC awards ceremony here.

Photo credit: John Midgley   

Yaa Gyasi’s novel Homegoing (Alfred A. Knopf), an ambitious novel that spans continents and centuries to wrap its arms around the African-American experience of slavery, was the recipient of the John Leonard Prize, recognizing an outstanding first book in any genre. Gyasi was born in Ghana and grew up partly in Alabama. She has an English degree from Stanford, an MFA from the University of Iowa, and now lives in New York.

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