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Irish American of the Year

McCann, whose literary star has been steadily rising in recent years, achieved a significant breakthrough in 2009 when the won the National Book Award for his latest novel, "Let The Great World Spin," a tale set in New York against the backdrop of the 1974 high-wire walk between the World Trade Center towers by Frenchman Philippe Petit and additionally an allegory of 9/11.

When he was presented with the book award, McCann dedicated his success to Frank McCourt who had died just a few weeks before.

In what was one of his last reviews of a book about to be published, McCourt had written of McCann's novel: "Now I worry about Colum McCann. What is he going to do after this blockbuster groundbreaking heartbreaking symphony of a novel? No novelist writing of New York has climbed higher, dived deeper."

To which might be added "traveled farther." McCann is packing his bags for China where, among other events, he will be attending a book fair in Shanghai later in the month.

The author, whose works have been translated into 30 languages, said that it was an "incredible honor" to be named the Echo's top choice for '09.

McCann, who is 44, teaches creative writing at CUNY Hunter College in Manhattan. Prior to his latest success, his novels included the highly acclaimed "Dancer," and "Zoli."

McCann was also the hand behind the short film "Everything in this Country Must," directed by Gary McKendry. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005.

A winner of multiple literary awards, McCann qualified for the National Book Award because he had lived for at least ten years in the United States. His home is in Manhattan where he lives with his wife, Allison, and their three children.

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