Books Honored with The Kirkus Prize

The Kirkus Prize Seal

First awarded in 2014, The Kirkus Prize is one of the richest literary awards in the world, with a prize of $50,000 bestowed annually to authors of fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature. It was created to celebrate the 86 years of discerning, thoughtful criticism Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large. Books that earn the Kirkus Star are automatically nominated for the Kirkus Prize. The Kirkus Prize judges select three winners each year in October. Below are books written by writers of African descent.


4 Books Honored with The Kirkus Prize in 2017

Winner - Fiction

What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky: Stories
by Lesley Nneka Arimah

Publication Date:
List Price: $26.00
Format: Hardcover, 240 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780735211025
Imprint: Riverhead Books
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
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Book Description: 
A NATIONAL BOOK FOUNDATION "5 UNDER 35" HONOREE

FINALIST FOR THE 2017 KIRKUS PRIZE

SHORTLISTED FOR THE BROOKLYN PUBLC LIBRARY LITERARY PRIZE

Named one of the most anticipated books of 2017 by Buzzfeed, Time Magazine, Elle, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Millions, Nylon, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Electric Literature

A dazzlingly accomplished debut collection explores the ties that bind parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends to one another and to the places they call home.

In “Who Will Greet You at Home,” a National Magazine Award finalist for The New Yorker, A woman desperate for a child weaves one out of hair, with unsettling results. In “Wild,” a disastrous night out shifts a teenager and her Nigerian cousin onto uneasy common ground. In "The Future Looks Good," three generations of women are haunted by the ghosts of war, while in "Light," a father struggles to protect and empower the daughter he loves. And in the title story, in a world ravaged by flood and riven by class, experts have discovered how to "fix the equation of a person" - with rippling, unforeseen repercussions.

Evocative, playful, subversive, and incredibly human, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky heralds the arrival of a prodigious talent with a remarkable career ahead of her.

Finalist - Fiction

Book Description: 
Sing, Unburied, Sing is a road novel turned on its head, and a family story with its feet to the fire. Lyric and devastating, Ward’s unforgettable characters straddle past and present in this spellbinding return to the rural Mississippi of her first book. You’ll never read anything like it.” Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi's past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Ward is a major American writer, multiply awarded and universally lauded, and in Sing, Unburied, Sing she is at the height of her powers.

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie's children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward's distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.




Finalist - Nonfiction

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South
by Michael W. Twitty

Publication Date:
List Price: $28.99
Format: Hardcover, 464 pages
Classification: Nonfiction
ISBN13: 9780062379290
Imprint: Amistad
Publisher: HarperCollins
Parent Company: News Corporation
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Book Description: 

2018 James Beard Foundation Book of the Year - 2018 James Beard Foundation Book Award Winner inWriting - Nominee for the 2018 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Nonfiction - #75 on The Root100 2018

A renowned culinary historian offers a fresh perspective on our most divisive cultural issue, race, in this illuminating memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture that traces his ancestry—both black and white—through food, from Africa to America and slavery to freedom.

Southern food is integral to the American culinary tradition, yet the question of who "owns" it is one of the most provocative touch points in our ongoing struggles over race. In this unique memoir, culinary historian Michael W. Twitty takes readers to the white-hot center of this fight, tracing the roots of his own family and the charged politics surrounding the origins of soul food, barbecue, and all Southern cuisine.

From the tobacco and rice farms of colonial times to plantation kitchens and backbreaking cotton fields, Twitty tells his family story through the foods that enabled his ancestors’ survival across three centuries. He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and travels from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to Black-owned organic farms in Georgia.

As he takes us through his ancestral culinary history, Twitty suggests that healing may come from embracing the discomfort of the Southern past. Along the way, he reveals a truth that is more than skin deep—the power that food has to bring the kin of the enslaved and their former slaveholders to the table, where they can discover the real America together.

Illustrations by Stephen Crotts


Finalist - Young Readers’ Literature

The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas

Publication Date:
List Price: $18.99
Format: Hardcover, 464 pages
Classification: Fiction
Target Age Group: Young Adult
ISBN13: 9780062498533
Imprint: Balzer + Bray
Publisher: HarperCollins
Parent Company: News Corporation
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Book Description: 

Now a Major Motion Picture! Read our film review.

p>Eight Starred Reviews! #1 New York Times Bestseller!"Absolutely riveting!" Jason Reynolds"Stunning." John Green"This story is necessary. This story is important." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)"Heartbreakingly topical." Publishers Weekly (starred review)"A marvel of verisimilitude." Booklist (starred review)"A powerful, in-your-face novel." The Horn Book (starred review)Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr doesor does notsay could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.