Raven Leilani, Mychal Denzel Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Gordon C. James were named the winners of the seventh annual Kirkus Prizes at an online ceremony on November 5th.
The awards in fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature are given annually by Kirkus Reviews, and each award comes with a $50,000 cash prize, making the Kirkus Prize among the most lucrative in the world.
Luster by Raven Leilani
No one wants what no one wants. And how do we even know what we want? How do we know we’re ready to take it?
Edie is stumbling her way through her twenties—sharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She is also haltingly, fitfully giving heat and air to the art that simmers inside her. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage—with rules.
As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren’t hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and invited into Eric’s home—though not by Eric. She becomes a hesitant ally to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie may be the only Black woman young Akila knows.
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Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream by Mychal Denzel Smith
The events of the past decade have forced us to reckon with who we are and who we want to be. We have been invested in a set of beliefs about our American identity: our exceptionalism, the inevitable rightness of our path, the promise that hard work and determination will carry us to freedom. But in Stakes Is High, Mychal Denzel Smith confronts the shortcomings of these stories—and with the American Dream itself—and calls on us to live up to the principles we profess but fail to realize.
In a series of incisive essays, Smith exposes the stark contradictions at the heart of American life, holding all of us, individually and as a nation, to account. We’ve gotten used to looking away, but the fissures and casual violence of institutional oppression are ever-present.
Young Readers Literature
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James
I am a nonstop ball of energy. Powerful and full of light. I am a go-getter. A difference maker. A leader.
The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through—as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down and really look and listen, when somebody tells you—and shows you—who they are. There are superheroes in our midst!Book