- 1984 Morton Dauwen Zabel Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for At the Bottom of the River
- 1984 Shortlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for At the Bottom of the River 1984.
- 1985 Guggenheim Award for Fiction
- 1985 Finalist for the International Ritz Paris Hemingway Award for Annie John
- 1997 Shortlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Friction for The Autobiography of My Mother
- 1997 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for The Autobiography of My Mother
- 1999 Lannan Literary Award for Fiction
- 2000 Prix Femina Étranger for My Brother
- 2004 American Academy of Arts and Letters
- 2009 American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- 2010 Center for Fiction's Clifton Fadiman Medal for Annie John
- 2011 Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Tufts University
- 2014 Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award for See Now Then
- 2015 Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Brandeis University
- Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award.
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