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Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction to be Awarded to Richard Ford

American novelist and short story writer Richard Ford, 2019 recipient of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. Photo by Karen Robinson / eyevine

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden has announced that Richard Ford, author of “Independence Day” – the first novel to win both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award – will receive the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction during the 2019 Library of Congress National Book Festival on Aug. 31.

“He has been called our Babe Ruth of novelists, and there is good reason why,” Hayden said, announcing the prize. “He is quintessentially American, profoundly humane, meticulous in his craft, daring on the field, and he hits it consistently out of the park. We are proud to confer the Library’s lifetime award for fiction on this luminous storyteller – one of the most eloquent writers of his generation – Richard Ford.”

Hayden selected Ford as this year’s winner based on nominations from more than 60 distinguished literary figures, including former winners of the prize, acclaimed authors and literary critics from around the world. The prize ceremony will take place during the National Book Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

One of the Library’s most prestigious awards, the annual Prize for American Fiction honors an American literary writer whose body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but also for its originality of thought and imagination. The award seeks to commend strong, unique, enduring voices that – throughout long, consistently accomplished careers – have told us something essential about the American experience.

“The good fortune of being given this prize – even apart from its private encouragement – is to be allowed to participate in what I’ve always taken to be the Library’s great achievement: to encourage literacy, to advocate for the primacy of the literary arts and to draw closer to the needs of readers,” Ford said. “The Library of Congress’ Prize for American Fiction makes me feel – accurately or not – what most novelists would like to feel, which is useful to our country’s conversation with the world.”

Ford was born in 1944 in Jackson, Mississippi, and grew up between there and Little Rock, Arkansas. He earned degrees from Michigan State University and the University of California, Irvine, where he studied under 2014 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction winner E.L. Doctorow. Ford’s seven novels include “The Sportswriter,” the first of the Bascombe Trilogy, and “Canada,” winner of the Prix Femina étranger. He has also published three short story collections, as well as the New York Times bestselling novella collection “Let Me Be Frank with You” and a memoir, “Between Them: Remembering My Parents.” Although they deal with deeply American subjects, his books are read in 35 foreign languages.

Ford’s many honors include the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction, the Siegfried Lenz Prize, the Premio la Lettura, the Princess of Asturias Award for Literature, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for fiction and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ford is the Mellon Professor and Emmanuel Roman and Barrie Sardoff Roman Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. Ford lives in Boothbay, Maine with his wife, Kristina Ford.

For more information on the prize, including previous winners, visit loc.gov/about/awards-and-honors/fiction-prize/.


  1. Martha f. Barkley
    August 28, 2019 at 9:36 am

    Richard Ford’s memoir about his parents is very unusual in that he wrote separately about their lives, years apart.

    As an only child, Richard felt his parents love for each other profoundly and yet he felt cherished by his mother, especially…her love of reading conveyed to him.

    This odd biography of his parents helps me understand Richard Ford’s writing. His recognition by The Library of Congress brought this southern writer to my attention.

    Martha F. Barkley in Belgrade Lakes, Maine

  2. Lynne MacKinnon
    August 30, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    Has the LOC received confirmation that Justice Ginsberg will be at the festival tomorrow? She has been out of the news and spotlight for quite some time.

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