Lorrie Moore wins prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award, continues to gather accolades for new novel

Lorrie Moore, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English, won a National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction for her novel I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home. The award, considered to be among the most prestigious literary prizes in the country, adds to the lengthy list of accolades that her novel has received since it was published last fall.


“This extraordinary recognition is yet another example of Lorrie Moore’s unparalleled creativity, mastery of language and significant influence on contemporary fiction,” said Timothy P. McNamara, interim dean of the College of Arts and Science. “This well-deserved praise rightfully confirms her place among the most celebrated authors of our time.”

One of the judges praised the novel as “an unforgettable achievement from a landmark American author.” Other award winners included author Judy Blume.

At the end of 2023, Moore’s novel was honored with several impressive awards and acknowledgements, including by The New Yorker, People magazine, New York magazine and NPR. At that time, Vanderbilt reported that I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home was named one of the best books of 2023 by The New Yorker. Before the novel’s release, Time magazine named I Am Homeless one of the most anticipated books of 2023.

Parul Sehgal of The New Yorker called the book “a work of determined strangeness and pain … an almost violent kind of achievement, slicing open the conventional notions of narrative itself.”

People magazine asked, “Who else but Lorrie Moore could make, in razor-sharp, irresistible prose, a ghost story about death buoyant with life?”

Maureen Corrigan of NPR said, “Just the title of Lorrie Moore’s latest novel tells you how singular and strange her vision is.” In one post-publication interview, Moore shared that this was the first time she’s written a book and not shown it to anyone during the process, precisely because of that “singular and strange” vision.

Book cover for Lorrie Moore's novel, I am Homeless if this is not my HomeI Am Homeless features two narratives in one, alternating between the musings of an 1870s boarding house proprietor in the post–Civil War South and an unusual love story, set just before the 2016 presidential election, featuring a hapless high school teacher who abandons his sick brother and takes a road trip with his ambiguously undead former girlfriend.

The book touches on a variety of significant topics and themes, including cancer, climate change, the Confederacy, Donald Trump and school shootings, just to name a few. But at its core, Moore said, I Am Homeless is about “grief and the weird forms it takes.”

Moore, who joined Vanderbilt’s faculty in 2013, worked on the book while in residence at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers in New York during the 2017–18 academic year. She admits to having done too much research while she was there.

“I found a lot of interesting things I could not include, and now I bore people with it all at parties,” she said.

Moore’s writing career spans four decades and includes four short story collections, four novels and dozens of essays, criticisms and commentaries on a wide variety of subjects, from race in America to prestige TV.

Her other novels include Anagrams (1986), Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? (1994) and A Gate at the Stairs (2009), which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Orange Prize for Fiction.

For her various works, she has won the O. Henry Award, The Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Rea Award for the Short Story, the PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction and the Finn Zinklar Award for the Short Story.

“Lorrie is richly deserving of this recognitionShe is a lodestar in American fiction, and we are fortunate to count her among our colleagues,” said Jennifer Fay, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Cinema and Media Arts, professor of English and chair of the English department. “She not only brings vast experience to our MFA program and the arts at Vanderbilt, but she also enlivens our language and expands our imagination with every sentence she writes.”

When asked to look back on her career to date, Moore declined: “That’s a terrible activity and will cause you to lie down on the floor and never get up.”

But then again, why look back when you can look ahead?

Recently, Moore was named a fiction fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. She spent the spring of 2023 in Berlin researching a narrative inspired by her own father’s childhood visit to Germany in 1935. That work is in progress.