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‘Nickel Boys,’ ‘Say Nothing’ among Kirkus Prize finalists

Joe Gross
Hanif Abdurraqib is nominated for a Kirkus Prize for his book “Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest" (University of Texas). [Contributed by Kate Sweeney]

The Austin-based Kirkus Reviews has announced the 18 finalists in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature for the sixth annual Kirkus Prize.

Winners in the three categories will receive $50,000 each, making the Kirkus Prize one of the largest annual literary awards in the world. Writers become eligible by receiving a rare starred review from Kirkus Reviews. A panel of judges, made up of writers, booksellers, librarians and Kirkus critics, selects the Kirkus Prize finalists and winners.

This year’s eligible finalists were chosen from 602 young readers’ literature titles, 356 fiction titles and 306 nonfiction titles. The three winners will be announced at a special ceremony emceed by editor-in-chief Tom Beer at the Austin Public Library on Oct. 24. The finalists’ books will be sold by BookPeople and there will be a signing following the ceremony. All finalists are also invited to participate at a Kirkus Prize panel at the Texas Book Festival on Oct. 26.

Related: John Grisham is coming to the 2019 Texas Book Festival

Related: In ‘The Nickel Boys,’ Colson Whitehead reflects on how Jim Crow horror haunts the present

The finalists for the 2019 Kirkus Prize are:


“Cantoras” by Carolina De Robertis (Knopf)

“The Other Americans by Laila Lalami (Pantheon)

“Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (Knopf)

“Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, translated by Geraldine Harcourt (FSG)

“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press)

“The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

The judges for the 2019 Kirkus Prize in fiction are: bestselling author Min Jin Lee; editor, writer and critic David L. Ulin; and Michelle Malonzo, buyer and bookseller at Changing Hands Bookstore in Arizona.


“Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest" by Hanif Abdurraqib (University of Texas)

“When Death Takes Something from You Give It Back: Carl’s Book” by Naja Marie Aidt, translated by Denise Newman (Coffee House)

“How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir” by Saeed Jones (Simon & Schuster)

“Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland” by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday)

“The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You” by Dina Nayeri (Catapult)

“No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us” by Rachel Louise Snyder (Bloomsbury)

The judges for the 2019 Kirkus Prize in nonfiction are: Kirkus Prize–winning and Pulitzer Prize–winning Jack E. Davis; critic Richard Z. Santos; and Aaron John Curtis, bookseller at Miami’s Books & Books.


Picture books:

“The Undefeated" by Kwame Alexander & illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Versify/HMH)

“Imagine” by Juan Felipe Herrera & illustrated by Lauren Castillo (Candlewick)

Middle grade:

“New Kid” written & illustrated by Jerry Craft (HarperCollins)

“Genesis Begins Again” by Alicia D. Williams (Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum)

Young adult:

“On The Come Up” by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)

“The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border” by Juan Pablo Villalobos, translated by Rosalind Harvey (FSG)

The judges for the 2019 Kirkus Prize in young readers’ literature are: award-winning author Mitali Perkins; Kirkus critic Hanna Lee; and Pauletta Brown Bracy, professor of Library Science at North Carolina Central University.

Learn more about all the finalists here.