Faust’s Civil War Book Falters in Quest for Non-Fiction National Book Award

University President Drew G. Faust’s book on the Civil War—one of the five finalists in the non-fiction section of the National Book Awards—was bested for the prize by a book about the family of Thomas Jefferson’s housekeeper Sally Hemings at the award ceremony in New York last night.

The prize went to Annette Gordon-Reid’s work “The Hemingses of Monticello,” which profiled Sally Hemings’ family, which had several ties to the Jeffersons, according to Gordon-Reid. [CORRECTION APPENDED]

A professor at Rutgers and New York Law School, Gordon-Reid is the first black woman to win the award for non-fiction.

Faust’s book, entitled “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War,” was published at the beginning of this year to positive reviews and strong sales for a work of academic history.

It is likely that this will be her last book for some time as Faust has stated in interviews that she does not intend to perform archival research or write while fulfilling her duties as University president.

The other finalists in the non-fiction category were journalists Jane Meyer and Jim Sheeler, and Cambridge resident Joan Wickersham.

Past winners include diplomat George F. Kennan, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman and left-wing novelist and essayist Gore Vidal.

The National Book Awards are given out annually by the National Book Foundation, a non-profit literary organization.

Awards are presented for four categories; Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature and the winners are decided by a panel of five judges per category.

This year, the ceremony took place at Cipriani’s Restaurant on Wall Street in New York.

Aside from Gordon-Reid, the winners of the night were Judy Blundell, who claimed the prize for young people’s literature; Peter Matthieson, whose book “Shadow Country” won in the fiction category, and Mark Doty, who won the award for poetry.

In addition, Maxine Hong Kingson received the distinguished contribution to American letters accolade while Barney Rosset took home the literarian award.

—Staff writer Betsy L. Mead can be reached at


The November 20 story Faust's Civil War Bok Falters in Quest for Non-Fiction National Book Award" misspelled the name of the winner of the National Book Award for non-fiction. Her name is Annette Gordon-Reed, not Gordon-Reid. Gordon-Reed is also a member of the Class of 1984.