38th Book Prizes will also recognize 50 finalists in 10 categories, with winners to be announced on April 20
The Los Angeles Times today announced the Book Prizes finalists and this year's honorees. Novelist John Rechy will receive the Robert Kirsch Award, Glory Edim will be honored with the Innovator's Award and Benjamin Taylor will be presented with the Christopher Isherwood Prize. The ceremony will be held at the University of Southern California's Bovard Auditorium on the evening of Friday, April 20, and will serve as a prologue to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the nation's largest literary and cultural festival, happening April 21-22 at USC.
John Rechy will receive the 2017 Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement, which recognizes a writer whose work focuses on the American West. "We're so pleased to be able to honor John Rechy, a groundbreaking writer and admired teacher," said Kenneth Turan, Times film critic and director of the Book Prizes. "To quote an equally celebrated Los Angeles author, Gore Vidal, Rechy is 'one of the few original American writers of the last century.'"
Rechy is a first-generation Mexican American author of many novels and works of nonfiction. He has written extensively about gay culture in Los Angeles and is considered a pioneer of modern gay literature and an important figure in Chicano literature. His first novel, "City of Night," revealed a subculture in a way it had not been portrayed before while exploring the universal themes of love and loneliness. It became a New York Times best seller immediately and has influenced American culture through the decades. James Baldwin praised the book as a "humbling and liberating achievement." Rechy's other honors include the PEN Center USA West's Lifetime Achievement Award, the Publishing Triangle's William Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement and an NEA Fellowship.
The 2017 Innovator's Award, which spotlights cutting-edge work to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future, will be awarded to Glory Edim for her work honoring black women writers and creating a platform to bring readers and writers together.
"We are delighted that our Innovator's Award will go to Glory Edim, founder of Well-Read Black Girl," said Carolyn Kellogg, Times Books editor. "Going from a hashtag to a cultural force, Well-Read Black Girl created a vital new space for literary discussion and engagement."
Well-Read Black Girl is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based book club and digital platform that celebrates community and the uniqueness of black literature. Edim curates monthly book club meetings and literary events with emerging and established authors. Last year, Edim launched the Well-Read Black Girl Writers' Conference and Festival, a full-day event bringing together authors, thinkers and literary artists.
Introduced last year, the Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose, sponsored by the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, encompasses fiction, travel writing, memoir and diary. The winner of the 2017 prize is Benjamin Taylor for "The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered." As a tribute to Isherwood, the prize honors exceptional work that is personal and acutely observant.
"'The Hue and Cry' is more than a memoir: It's a clear-eyed history, a cultural reflection, an elegy for youth and time itself — accomplished with subtlety, humor and grace," said Dinah Lenney, one of the five judges on the panel.
The Book Prizes recognize 51 remarkable works in 11 categories: autobiographical prose (the Christopher Isherwood Prize), biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction (the Art Seidenbaum Award), graphic novel/comics, history, mystery/thriller, poetry, science and technology, and young adult literature. Judging panels of writers who specialize in each genre select finalists and winners.