The awards recognize outstanding literary achievements in 12 categories, including the new Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, with winners to be announced April 17
The Los Angeles Times today announced the finalists and honorees of the 40th annual Book Prizes, including the new Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction. Walter Mosley will be honored with the Robert Kirsch Award, WriteGirl will receive the Innovator’s Award and Emily Bernard will be presented with the Christopher Isherwood Prize. The annual ceremony recognizing outstanding literary achievements will take place on Friday, April 17, 2020. The ceremony kicks off the weekend literary and cultural gathering, Festival of Books, Stories and Ideas, taking place April 18-19 at USC.
Crime-fiction writer Walter Mosley will receive the 2019 Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement, which recognizes a writer whose work focuses on the American West.
“We are pleased to celebrate Walter Mosley’s 30-year writing life, which spans mysteries, short stories, science fiction, nonfiction, plays, and works for television and film,” said Times Books Editor Boris Kachka. “Whether through a detective story set in the streets of 1950s Los Angeles or essays about contemporary politics, Mosley reaches a wide range of readers, bringing about a deeper understanding of the world and the people who live in it.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mosley eventually settled in New York City. As Columnist Patt Morrison said in a profile for The Times, “You can take Walter Mosley out of Los Angeles … but you can’t take L.A. out of Walter Mosley.” The author of more than 43 books crossing various genres, he is best known for his 14-volume mystery series featuring detective Easy Rawlins, a Black private detective living in South Central Los Angeles.
A Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America, Mosley has received numerous awards, including the Edgar Award for best novel, the Anisfield-Wolf Award, a Grammy, a PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award and several NAACP Image awards.
The 2019 Innovator’s Award, which spotlights efforts to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future, will be awarded to WriteGirl for its contributions to the community, promoting literacy, creativity and self-expression to empower girls.
“We are so pleased to honor L.A.’s own WriteGirl with this year’s Innovator’s Award,” said Kenneth Turan, Times film critic and director of the Book Prizes. “For nearly 20 years, they have been doing exceptional work matching professional women mentors with teen girls to promote self-expression and empowerment through writing.”
Founded and led by Keren Taylor, WriteGirl is a nonprofit organization that brings creativity, critical thinking and leadership skills to teenage girls who do not otherwise have access to creative writing or mentoring programs. The recipient of the 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, WriteGirl offers free writing workshops, covering topics such as poetry, songwriting, journalism, screenwriting, creative nonfiction and more. The organization also publishes anthologies of members’ work. To date, the books have won 91 national and international book awards.
Emily Bernard is the winner of the 2019 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose for “Black is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time and Mine.” Sponsored by the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the award encompasses fiction, travel writing, memoir and diary, and honors exceptional work.
“With deceptively simple and luminous prose, Emily Bernard invites us to inhabit her life as she poses perilous questions seemingly as simple as ‘when is a doll just a doll,’ and pushes ever deeper refusing easy solutions,” the panel of judges said in their comments. “This is a beautiful, important collection of essays.”
The new Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction, sponsored by Ray Bradbury Literary Works, honors and extends Bradbury’s literary legacy by celebrating and elevating the writers working in his field today. Bradbury always made his own rules, writing across specific genre boundaries throughout his career.
“We are thrilled to present this prize in partnership with the L.A. Times,” the family of Ray Bradbury said in a statement. “Ray was a proud Angeleno who used words to both predict and prevent the future — this prize recognizes authors with a similar passion for storytelling and the far-reaching effects their words have in this world.”
The Book Prizes recognize 56 remarkable works in 12 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 fiction (the Ray Bradbury Prize), science and technology, and young adult literature. Judging panels of writers who specialize in each genre select finalists and winners. The complete list of finalists and further information, including past winners, is available at latimes.com/BookPrizes. Tickets for the ceremony will be made available for purchase on March 12. The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is presented in association with USC. Festival news and updates are available on the event website, Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram (#bookfest).