The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes to Honor Leslie Marmon Silko and the Book Industry Charitable Foundation

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The awards recognize outstanding literary achievements in 12 categories, with winners to be announced on April 16


The Los Angeles Times today announced the finalists and honorees of the 41st annual Book Prizes. Leslie Marmon Silko will be honored with the Robert Kirsch Award, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation will receive the Innovator’s Award and Andrew O’Hagan will be presented with the Christopher Isherwood Prize. The literary awards champion new voices and celebrate the highest quality of writing from authors at all stages of their careers. Winners will be announced virtually on Friday, April 16, 2021, in a prologue to the Festival of Books, Stories and Ideas. Traditionally the nation’s largest in-person literary event, the festival will continue this year as an online community gathering, beginning on Saturday, April 17, and continuing over the course of six days.

Acclaimed novelist and poet Leslie Marmon Silko will receive the 2020 Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement, which recognizes a writer whose work focuses on the American West. Silko’s work is heavily influenced by her mixed heritage of Laguna Pueblo, Mexican and Anglo-American. She writes about the alienation of Native Americans and the importance of Native traditions to help cope with modern-day reservation life.

“We are so pleased to recognize Leslie’s remarkable writing career, spanning more than four decades, with this year’s Kirsch Award,” said Times Book Editor Boris Kachka. “Her contributions to the renaissance of Native American literature and art paved the way for subsequent generations of Native American writers. Her works draw on the myths and traditions of her Laguna heritage to powerfully illuminate the lives of her characters; they have also expanded the canon of America’s literature to include its original cultures and ways of seeing the world.”


Since the early 1970s, Silko has published several novels, essays and collections of poetry. Some of her most acclaimed works include “Laguna,” “Ceremony,” Storyteller” and “Almanac of the Dead.” Silko has received high honors throughout her writing career, including a Pushcart Prize for Poetry and the MacArthur “genius” grant, and was named a Living Cultural Treasure by the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities.

The 2020 Innovator’s Award will be presented to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc). The award, which spotlights efforts to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future, will honor Binc for its contributions and work assisting struggling independent bookstores and employees in a year when many small businesses were forced to shut their doors.

“This year, it was an easy call when it came to selecting the Innovator’s Award winner,” said Julia Turner, Deputy Managing Editor for Arts and Entertainment. “Binc’s important mission to help stores weather natural disasters and economic hardship was never more important than during the catastrophic year of 2020 when physical retail businesses suffered so much due to the pandemic. We are thrilled to recognize their work.”

Founded in 1996, Binc is a nonprofit organization that coordinates charitable programs to the bookselling and comic retail community. The program provides financial assistance to employees and shop owners who have been affected by severe hardship or emergency circumstances. Since its inception, Binc has provided over $9 million in assistance and scholarships to more than 9,000 families. Last year, the group quickly jumped into action to assist booksellers and comic retailers impacted by COVID-19.

Andrew O’Hagan is the winner of the 2020 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose for the coming-of-age novel “Mayflies.” Sponsored by the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the award encompasses fiction, travel writing, memoir and diary, and honors exceptional work.

“In keeping with the legacy of Christopher Isherwood, ‘Mayflies’ is both deeply personal and universal,” said Diana Wagman of the Isherwood Prize committee. “In one seminal night and one all-encompassing friendship, Andrew O’Hagan captures youth and joy and the possibilities in the shimmering future. And then 30 years later, the power of the past struggles against the question of free will.”


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 Winners will be announced in a live-streamed ceremony and on Twitter (@latimesbooks) on Friday, April 16. 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).