Kirkus Reviews, the national book review magazine based in Austin and New York City, on Thursday announced the winners of its annual Kirkus Prize honors.
"Luster" by Raven Leilani won in the fiction category, while Mychal Denzel Smith’s "Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream" took the prize in nonfiction. "I Am Every Good Thing" by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James won for young readers’ literature.
Kirkus announced the winners in a news release ahead of a virtual ceremony Thursday evening. The usual in-person event was replaced by a livestream from the Austin Central Library, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Luster" tells the story of a young Black woman who engages in a relationship with an older white man. "Stakes Is High," meanwhile, "dares readers not just to rethink and reckon but to undo what racism, carcerality, greed, heteropatriarchy, and state-sanctioned suffering have wrought on our society," according to the Kirkus Prize judges’ statement. The judges called "I Am Every Good Thing" a "celebration of Black boyhood and all its possibilities."
Each Kirkus Prize winner receives $50,000. The winners this year set a couple records for the awards, which were created in 2014. At 30, Leilani is the prize’s youngest-ever winning author, and Barnes and James are the first repeat winners. They previously took home a prize in 2018 for "Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut," a picture book.
"Luster" is the debut novel from Leilani. Smith’s previous works include "Invisible Man" and "Got the Whole World Watching." Barnes and James’ "Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut" also won widespread acclaim from other literary organizations, including a Newbery Honor and a Caldecott Honor.
Judges for the Kirkus Prize include writers, booksellers, librarians and Kirkus Reviews critics. Last year’s winners were "The Nickel Boys" by Colson Whitehead, "How We Fight for Our Lives" by Saeed Jones and "New Kid" by Jerry Craft. For more information, go to kirkusreviews.com/prize.
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