NEW YORK – Sam Quinones, a California-based journalist with deep reporting experience in Mexico, was awarded the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Award for Nonfiction during a March 17 ceremony at the New School in New York.
Quinones’s book, “Dreamland: The True Story of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” was described by NBCC judges as “masterful and sobering. ‘Dreamland’ is like a classic tragedy in which what we fervently wanted, an absence of pain, turned out in many cases more damaging than anyone could have imagined.”
The judges said, “Dreamland is a devastating dive into what may be America’s most extensive drug crisis. Quinones masterfully weaves together individual tales from all quarters of the epidemic. It all came together in what Quinones calls a catastrophic synergy in which over prescription formed a generation of addicts.”
In accepting the award, Quinones said his research “took me all over this country” before he finally set his story in “a Rust Belt town that had been beaten down…the town of Portsmouth, Ohio.”
Portsmouth has been devastated by addiction, as have hundreds of small rural towns and suburbs across America. But it is in Portsmouth that Quinones said he found hope.
“They are finding the wherewithal to build community,” he said. In other cities and towns across America, however, Quinones said he found “a story of isolation over community.”
Quinones, a contributing journalist with InquireFirst, credited his experience as a crime reporter in Stockton, Ca., with shaping him as a writer.
“That’s where I learned how to tell crime stories, how to cover murder, cover gangs, cover drug trafficking, and write my ass off for four years of the most withering crime rates anyone has ever experienced,” he said.
Quinones also spent 10 years reporting in Mexico, an experience he describes as “life changing.” Mexico was “where I could focus on characters, where I could focus on a changing country.”
Quinones, who lives in Los Angeles, is the author of two earlier books: “Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream” and “True Tales from Another Mexico.”