Authors Colson Whitehead, Saeed Jones and Jerry Craft won Kirkus Prizes on Thursday night, taking home some of the literary world’s most lucrative awards.
The winners of the $50,000 awards were announced at a ceremony in Austin, Texas.
Whitehead won the fiction award for “The Nickel Boys,” his novel about students at a Florida boarding school who are subject to horrific abuse at the hands of employees. “A significant social drama, it is direct, accessible and unrelenting both as allegory and as cautionary tale,” the award judges said. “This is our history. It is our story.”
Other fiction nominees were Carolina de Robertis’ “Cantoras,” Laila Lalami’s “The Other Americans,” Valeria Luiselli’s “Lost Children Archive,” Yuko Tsushima’s “Territory of Light” and Ocean Vuong’s “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.”
The nonfiction award went to Jones for his memoir, “How We Fight for Our Lives.” The judges called Jones’ book “a tightly crafted work that explodes with vitality” and “a book for the ages.”
The other nonfiction finalists were Hanif Abdurraqib’s “Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest,” Naja Marie Aidt’s “When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back: Carl’s Book,” Patrick Radden Keefe’s “Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland,” Dina Nayeri’s “The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You” and Rachel Louise Snyder’s “No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us.”
In the young readers’ literature category, Craft won for his middle-grade book “New Kid,” which judges praised as “a laugh-out-loud combination of art and story that showcases the beauty of graphic novel.”
The other nominees in the category were Kwame Alexander’s “The Undefeated,” Juan Felipe Herrera’s “Imagine,” Alicia D. Williams’ “Genesis Begins Again,” Angie Thomas’ “On the Come Up” and Juan Pablo Villalobos’ “The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border.”
The Kirkus Prizes have been awarded annually since 2014. The winners were selected from the 1,264 titles that received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews over the last year.