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First-time novelist Diaz wins U.S. critics' award

New York author Junot Diaz won the U.S. National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction Thursday evening for his debut novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, published last year.Diaz, 39, prevailed over four other nominees, including Joyce Carol Oates and Marianne Wiggins, to take the honour at a ceremony in Manhattan.

The NBCC awards, started in the mid-1970s, have no cash value but its 500 members include some of the most influential critics in the United States.

Awards were also given out Thursday in the categories of non-fiction ( Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington), criticism (Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise), poetry ( Elegy by Mary Jo Bang), autobiography ( Brother, I'm Dying by Edwige Danticat) and biography ( Stanley by Tim Jeal).

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