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National Book Awards Kick Off

Author Joan Didion
GETTY IMAGES/Brad Barket
Renowned authors and essayists' whose words encapsulate the American experience don't go unnoticed by the National Book Foundation.

Joan Didion, the author and essayist best known for her memoir "The Year of Magical Thinking," will receive an honorary National Book Award medal this fall for "Distinguished Contribution to American Letters."

Terry Gross, who has interviewed Didion and countless other authors as host of National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" program, won the "Literarian Award" for "Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community." Gross records the program at WHYY-FM in Philadelphia.

The honors were announced Monday by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization that presents the National Book Awards, now in their 58th year.

"Both women are fearless in their questioning and their insights on the page and on the air have informed our understanding of America and of America's writers for decades," foundation Executive Director Harold Augenbraum said Monday in a statement.

Didion and Gross will officially receive their prizes at the annual National Book Awards ceremony, to be held Nov. 14 in New York City and hosted for the second straight year by writer and humorist Fran Lebowitz.