The award was announced at the National Book Awards ceremony, hosted by LeVar Burton, Nov. 20 in New York City.
“Given what we’re all facing today, I find it an astonishing privilege what I get to do every day,” Choi said in her acceptance speech. “I get to lead a life centered on books and bring other people into that world.”
Published in April by Henry Holt, “Trust Exercise” is about teenagers at an elite performing arts high school in the 1980s. Readers see a love affair between two students from different angles, as Choi creates tension between the inaccuracy of memory and the elusiveness of truth. The novel touches on #MeToo era themes such as consent, coercion and ambiguity. Reviews of the novel praised Choi’s innovative experimentation with narrative and form.
The other finalists for the fiction award were “Sabrina & Corina: Stories” by Kali Fajarado-Anstine, “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” by Marlon James, “The Other Americans” by Laila Lalami, and “Disappearing Earth” by Julie Phillips.Joan Didion has called Choi “a writer whose intelligence and historical awareness effortlessly serve a breathtaking narrative ability.”
Choi teaches creative writing at Yale University. Her first book for children, “Camp Tiger,” also was published this year.
Her debut novel, “The Foreign Student,” was published in 1998 and won the Asian-American Literary Award for fiction. Her second, “American Woman,” was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize.
Choi’s books also include “A Person of Interest,” a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award; and “My Education,” winner of a 2014 Lammy Award. She also co-edited the short story anthology “Wonderful Town: New York Stories From The New Yorker” (2000).
Choi was the inaugural recipient of the PEN/W.G. Sebald Award in 2010. She also has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.