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Iraq war veteran Phil Klay wins National Book Award

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Phil Klay
Robin Marchant/Getty Images

Phil Klay, an Iraq war veteran, won the National Book Award for fiction on Nov. 18 for his debut collection of short stories, Redeployment.

Klay’s collection includes a number of stories both dramatic and comedic that demonstrate the effects of war through a number of unique scenarios. From a soldier acclimating back to a suburban life to a Foreign Service Officer tasked with improving a group of Iraqis’ lives by teaching them baseball, Klay’s stories cover a number of important but unexpected aspects of war.

Beating out four other nominees, Klay became the first author whose debut won the fiction award since 2002, when Julia Glass’ The Three Junes took home the award. Redeployment was the first collection to win since Andrea Barrett’s Ship Fever in 1996, and Klay is the first Iraq veteran honored with the award. Klay was also named one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” honorees.

In other categories, Evan Osnos won the nonfiction award for Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, Louise Glück’s Faithful and Virtuous Night claimed the award for poetry, and Jacqueline Woodson won for Brown Girl Dreaming in the young people’s literature category.

For more on Redeployment, read EW‘s review of the collection, in which Jeff Labrecque says Klay “brilliantly manages to wring some sense out of the nonsensical.”

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