The 70th annual National Book Awards bestowed the top honor in fiction on Susan Choi author of the coming of age novel “Trust Exercise,” while the biggest round of applause for the night went to Susan Broom, the winner in nonfiction for “The Yellow House.”

LeVar Burton, who played Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in “Star Trek: Next Generation” and kept the show moving with clever one-liners throughout the two-plus hour event.

Broom’s childhood home in New Orleans East was a family residence for 40 years until it was wiped away by Hurricane Katrina. In that simple house, she said her mother outlived two husbands and raised 12 children.

“The magnitude of being in this room just reminds me of the distance I’ve come,” said Broom who said she was the youngest and most unruly of the 12 children. “I am in this room—semicolon—and so is my mother,” Broom said. Her mother, she said “ was always wolfing down words, insatiable is how I learned that words were a kind of sustenance.”

Choi, whose coming-of-age novel centered on two artsy teens, said even after she had published her first novel at age 30, “I never thought I’d actually lead a life that was centered on books and writing.” She said that writing “is really it’s own reward.”

Arthur Sze, won in the poetry category for “Sight Lines” and not surprisingly had one of the most poetic acceptance speeches. “We need poetry now more than ever,” he said. “I believe poetry is an essential language. It helps us slow down, see clearly, feel deeply and realize what truly matters.” But his presenter Mark Wunderlich may have done him one better. “As long as the moon rises in the night sky, and people love each other or break each other’s hearts, poetry will matter,” he said.

When the poetry winner was announced a particularly large round of applause seemed to come from one side of Cipriani Wall Street where the black-tie event was held Wednesday night. “All the people who can rhyme are in that part of the room,” said Burton.

The winner for Young Adult literature was Martin W. Sandler’s “1919 The Year that Changed America” about labor unrest, women’s suffrage, prohibition and racism. “I’ve written 60 books and I hope to write 60 more, and I plan to be here to celebrate them with you,” said Sandler.

To which Burton quipped, “Proof positive that if you just keep typing, good s- -t happens.”

Hungarian writer Laszlo Krasznahorkai won for “Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming.” “It is a tremendous joy that through our translators we can cross these heavy borders,” he said. “We can be home in America.” His translator Ottilie Mulzet nearly picked a second trophy for the book from the awards table before she was chided by Burton, “One per customer.”

The medal for distinguished contribution to American Letters was presented to Edmund White while Oren Teicher, the outgoing CEO of the American Booksellers Association was the winner of this year’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.

Burton, who opened the night saying he always dreamed of being at the National Book Awards—but in the audience as a guest of a talented writer, turned serious at the end when he thanked readers everywhere. “Never forget that what you do is essential to humanity. Reading and literacy is a birthright of all of us, and reading is indeed a radical act of humanity.”

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