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Ronan Farrow, Emily Bazelon and Colson Whitehead among L.A. Times Book Prize finalists

Walter Mosley
Author Walter Mosley, named as the winner of the 2019 Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement, is best known for his mystery series featuring detective Easy Rawlins.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Ronan Farrow, Emily Bazelon, Attica Locke, Michael Connelly and Colson Whitehead are among the finalists for the 40th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes announced Wednesday, with crime novelist Walter Mosley named as the winner of the 2019 Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement.

The Los Angeles-based nonprofit WriteGirl will receive the annual Innovator’s Award and author Emily Bernard will be honored with the Christopher Isherwood Prize for autobiographical prose.

Winners will be announced at an evening ceremony in Los Angeles on April 17, the day before the start of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Stories and Ideas on the USC campus.

Farrow’s “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators” is among the finalists in the current-interest category, which this year highlights books that explore the hot-button issues of the day. Farrow will compete with Bazelon’s “Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration,” “The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California” by Mark Arax, as well as 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.”

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In the fiction category, Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys,” is among a field that also includes Ben Lerner’s “The Topeka School,” Maaza Mengiste’s “The Shadow King,” Madeline ffitch’s “Stay and Fight” and Tash Aw’s “We, the Survivors.”

Other nominees include Laura Lippman’s “Lady in the Lake” and Steph Cha’s “Your House Will Pay,” both finalists in the mystery/thriller category. In poetry, Ilya Kaminsky’s “Deaf Republic” and Mary Ruefle’s “Dunce” are among the finalists.

This year will be the first for the Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction, sponsored by Ray Bradbury Literary Works. The prize honors Bradbury’s literary legacy by celebrating writers working in his field today. The inaugural nominees are Ted Chiang’s short-story collection “Exhalation”; Marlon James’ “Black Leopard Red Wolf,” part of the Dark Star trilogy; Brian Evenson’s “Song for the Unraveling of the World”; Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar for their collaborative science-fiction book “This Is How You Lose the Time War” and Namwali Serpell’s “The Old Drift.”

“Ray was a proud Angeleno who used words to both predict and prevent the future,” said a statement from Bradbury’s family. “(T)his prize recognizes authors with a similar passion for storytelling and the far-reaching effects their words have in this world,”

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The 2019 Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement recognizes a writer whose work focuses on the American West. Mosley now resides in New York City, but the prolific, Watts-born author of more than 43 books is best known for his mystery series featuring detective Easy Rawlins, a private detective in South-Central Los Angeles.

“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 Book 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.”

WriteGirl, a mentorship program for young women, and its founder and executive director Keren Taylor have been honored with the Innovator’s Award, given in prior years to Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., as well as Margaret Atwood, LeVar Burton and John Green.

“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.”

In 12 connected essays, Bernard captured her experience with race in “Black Is the Body: Stories From My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time and Mine.” The panel of judges that awarded Bernard the Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose said: “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. This is a beautiful, important collection of essays.”

Tickets for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes will go on sale March 12 at the Festival of Books website. The full lineup of the weekend festival will be announced the same day.

The annual book prizes recognize work in 12 categories: autobiographical prose; biography; current interest; fiction; first fiction; graphic novel/comics; history; mystery/thriller; poetry; science fiction; science and technology and young-adult literature.

The complete list of 2019 winners and finalists:

Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction

María Gainza, trans. Thomas Bunstead, “Optic Nerve”

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Lila Savage, “Say Say Say”

Namwali Serpell, “The Old Drift”

Sarah Elaine Smith, “Marilou is Everywhere”

De’Shawn Charles Winslow, “In West Mills”

Biography

Leo Damrosch, “The Club: Johnson, Boswell and the Friends Who Shaped an Age“

George Packer, “Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century”

Victoria Riskin, “Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir”

Yuval Taylor, “Zora and Langston: A Story of Friendship and Betrayal”

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Evan Thomas, “First: Sandra Day O’Connor”

Current Interest

Mark Arax, “The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California”

Emily Bazelon, “Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration”

Ronan Farrow, “ Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators”

Dina Nayeri, “The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You”

Rachel Louise Snyder, “No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us”

Fiction

Tash Aw, “We, the Survivors”

Madeline ffitch, “Stay and Fight”

Ben Lerner, “The Topeka School”

Maaza Mengiste, “The Shadow King”

Colson Whitehead, “The Nickel Boys”

Graphic novels/Comics

Eleanor Davis, “The Hard Tomorrow”

Michael DeForge, “Leaving Richard’s Valley”

Jaime Hernández, “Is This How You See Me?”

Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, “Grass”

Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, “Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me”

History

Toby Green, “A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution”

Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, “They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South”

Charles King, “Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century”

Sarah Milov, “The Cigarette: A Political History”

David Treuer, “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present”

Mystery/Thriller

Steph Cha, “Your House Will Pay”

Michael Connelly, “The Night Fire”

Jane Harper, “The Lost Man”

Laura Lippman, “Lady in the Lake”

Attica Locke, “Heaven, My Home”

Poetry

Reginald Dwayne Betts, “Felon”

Ilya Kaminsky, “Deaf Republic”

Sally Wen Mao, “Oculus”

Mary Ruefle, “Dunce”

Carmen Giménez Smith, “Be Recorder”

Science & Technology

Katherine Eban, “Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom”

Adam Higginbotham, “Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster”

Caroline Criado Perez, “Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men”

Maria Popova, “Figuring”

Angela Saini, “Superior: The Return of Race Science”

The Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction

Ted Chiang, “Exhalation: Stories”

Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone, “This is How You Lose the Time War”

Brian Evenson, “Song for the Unraveling of the World”

Marlon James, “Black Leopard, Red Wolf”

Namwali Serpell, “The Old Drift”

Young Adult Literature

Laurie Halse Anderson, “Shout”

A.S. King, “Dig”

Thanhha Lai, “Butterfly Yellow”

Malla Nunn, “When the Ground is Hard”

Randy Ribay, “Patron Saints of Nothing”

Robert Kirsch Award winner

Walter Mosley

Innovator’s Award winner

Keren Taylor, WriteGirl

Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose winner

Emily Bernard, “Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine”


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