Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, 2007

The National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, bestowed its 2007 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters on Joan Didion in recognition of her outstanding achievements as a novelist and essayist. An incisive observer of American politics and culture for more than forty-five years, her distinctive blend of spare, elegant prose and fierce intelligence has earned her books a place in the canon of American literature as well as the admiration of generations of writers and journalists. She won the National Book Award in 2005 for her last book, The Year of Magical Thinking. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Cunningham presented the Medal at the 58th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner in New York City on Wednesday, November 14.

Michael Cunningham presenting the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to
American Letters to Joan Didion

Joan Didion Accepts the NBF's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Joan Didion


JJoan Didionoan Didion was born in Sacramento, California in 1934 and has been a novelist, essayist and screenwriter for more than three decades.

Her five novels are Run River (1963), Play It As It Lays (1970), A Book of Common Prayer (1977), Democracy (1984), and The Last Thing He Wanted (1996). Her nonfiction books are Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), The White Album (1978), Salvador (1983), Miami (1987), After Henry (1992), Political Fictions (2001), Where I Was From (2003) and The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), a memoir, which won the National Book Award. Ms. Didion adapted her memoir into a Broadway play starring Vanessa Redgrave. She is a contributor to The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker. Ms. Didion and her late husband, John Gregory Dunne, co-authored several screenplays. In 2005, Didion received the Gold Medal for Belles Lettres from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which is the highest honor the Academy awards to a writer. She lives in New York City.

Photo © Brigitte Lacombe

The National Book Foundation's Medal for
Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

Every fall, in conjunction with the conferring of The National Book Awards in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature, the Board of Directors of the Foundation also presents a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, which comes with $10,000. The recipient is a person who has enriched our literary heritage over a life of service, or a corpus of work.