Novelist Ling Ma, essayist Rebecca Solnit, and writer Derrick Barnes with illustrator Gordon C. James have won the 2018 Kirkus Prizes, which were announced Thursday evening at a celebration at Austin’s Central Library.
Each prize carries a cash award of $50,000, making them among the richest literary prizes in the world. This is the fifth year the Austin-based Kirkus Reviews has given the awards.
Ma won the fiction prize for “Severance,” a pre- and post-apocalyptic first novel.
“Refashioning post-apocalyptic tropes with exquisite craft, Ling Ma offers a portrait of our times — especially our fears,” the judges — author Sandra Cisneros; editor, writer and Kirkus critic Jessica Jernigan; and bookstore owner Angela Maria Spring — said in a written statement. “'Severance' is both a cutting critique of late-stage capitalism and the intensely affecting story of a young woman finding her place in her world. ... It is a perfect novel for this moment, and an astonishing debut.”
The nonfiction prize was awarded to Solnit for “Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays).”
“She has an extraordinary ability to synthesize what would seem to be disparate issues and foster an expanded vision for examining our beliefs and actions,” author Carina Chocano, author and Kirkus critic Joseph Barbato and book buyer Sheryl Cotleur wrote in their judges' comments.
The young readers' literature award went to Barnes and James for “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut,” a joyful look at the world of the black barbershop.
“This tour-de-force artistic statement extols to its audience the beauty and grace of being ‘someone that matters,’” wrote judges Marie Lu, an author; writer and Kirkus critic J. Alejandro Mazariegos; and Kimberly A. Patton, youth services supervisor at the main branch of the Kansas City, Kan., Public Library.
This year’s fiction and nonfiction winners were chosen from the 1,193 titles that received a starred Kirkus review and were published between Nov. 1, 2017, and Oct. 31. The eligibility dates for the young readers’ prize are Oct. 1, 2017, through Sept. 28.