Punk legend Patti Smith was on the verge of tears as she accepted a major literary honor for her memoir at the U.S. National Book Awards in New York City on Wednesday, November 17. The veteran singer won the coveted nonfiction prize for Just Kids, a book about her youth in New York which chronicles her relationship with late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.
Smith became emotional as she took to the stage to collect the trophy and she used her speech to urge publishers not to "abandon" traditional books in favor of electronic readers. She said, "There is nothing more beautiful than the book, the paper, the font, the cloth. Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please never abandon the book."
Smith also recalled her days working as a clerk in a New York bookstore, admitting she long dreamed of writing and winning a literary award. She added, "I've loved books all my life. (I dreamed of) having a book of my own (and) I used to wonder what it would feel like to win a National Book Award. Thank you for letting me find out."
Judges described Smith's book as "an evocative work of cultural history" and an "unsentimental elegy for a time that seems both very recent and very long ago." Other winners at the ceremony included Jaimy Gordon, who won the fiction award for Lord of Misrule, and Tom Wolfe, who was presented with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.