Sheri Fink wins SIBA nonfiction prize

(Courtesy of Crown)
(Courtesy of Crown)

Even as Hurricane Arthur rips along the East Coast, today Sheri Fink won the nonfiction prize from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance for “Five Days at Memorial” (Crown), her book about the deadly treatment of patients at the Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Fink, a former physician who works for the New York Times, won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for her coverage of the acts committed at the hospital in 2005. “Five Days at Memorial,” which grew out of her reporting, also won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction.

In the citation released today, the SIBA judges praised her book for “bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.”

Responding to news of her latest award, Fink said via e-mail, “On this Fourth of July, I’m thinking about what national treasures our independent booksellers are. SIBA was one of the earliest and most important champions of ‘Five Days at Memorial,’ and it means a great deal that booksellers in the communities most affected by Hurricane Katrina chose this book for their nonfiction prize.”

Although she is in New York, where the weather is currently overcast and cool, her coverage of Katrina makes her especially concerned about the current storm. “Watching Hurricane Arthur lash the East Coast today,” she said, “is a reminder that despite our still-vulnerable infrastructure, the gaps in our personal and institutional preparedness, and our short-sighted reluctance to invest more, what we’ve learned from the shame of Katrina is that we need to do better for disaster-struck communities. That is at least a beginning.”

Other SIBA winners announced today in Columbia, S.C.:

Fiction: “Whistling Past the Graveyard,” by Susan Crandall (Gallery).

Poetry: “The Collected Poems of Cathy Smith Bowers,” by Cathy Smith Bowers (Press 53).

Young Adult: “The Moon and More,” by Sarah Dessen (Viking).

Children’s: “The Girl from Felony Bay,” by J.E. Thompson (Walden Pond).

Cooking: “Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups and Then Some,” by John Currence (Andrews McMeel).

The annual SIBA prize winners are chosen by owners of independent bookstores to honor “the finest in the tradition of Southern storytelling.” To be eligible, a book must be set in the South, or the author must be from the South.

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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