Colson Whitehead, Ocean Vuong, Angie Thomas among Kirkus Prize finalists

The $50,000 U.S. prize annually recognizes fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature.
Colson Whitehead, Ocean Vuong and Angie Thomas are among the finalists for the U.S.-based Kirkus Prize. (Getty Images, Tom Hines, Anissa Hidouk)

Colson Whitehead's novel The Nickel Boys, Ocean Vuong's novel On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous and Angie Thomas's YA novel On the Come Up are among the finalists for the  Kirkus Prize.

The U.S.-based prize is worth $50,000 US ($66,408 Cdn) and recognizes the year's outstanding fiction, nonfiction and young readers' books.

Nominated in the fiction category, The Nickel Boys is based on a real reform school in Florida that operated for over a century. New York City-born Whitehead, who was on the July 8, 2019 cover of a recent Time magazine edition titled America's Storyteller, writes the chilling tale of a young black man named Elwood Curtis who is sent to live at a juvenile reformatory after an innocent mistake. 

On the Come Up by Thomas is nominated in the young readers category. The YA novel is Mississippi author's second book, after the bestselling YA novel The Hate U Give.

On the Come Up is about a 16-year-old who has aspirations to become the greatest rap artist of all time — but economic, race and class issues threaten to get in the way. 

Also nominated in the fiction category is Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous. Vuong, a Vietnamese-American poet whose book Night Sky with Exit Wounds won the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Whiting Award and others, writes about a 20-something man who examines how his family history has shaped him and the secrets he bears.

How We Fight for Our Lives by American author and poet Saeed Jones is nominated in the nonfiction category. Over a series of vignettes, How We Fight for Our Lives describes the boyhood and adolescence of a young, gay black man from the American South.

Each category has six finalists. The complete list of this year's finalists is below.



Young readers:

  • The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft, illustrated by Jerry Craft, Jim Callahan
  • Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
  • The Other Side by Juan Pablo Villalobos, translated by Rosalind Harvey
  • Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

The winners will be announced Oct. 24, 2019.

No Canadian authors were recognized in 2019.

Past Canadian winners include Georgian Bay Métis author Cherie Dimaline, who won the young readers category for the dystopian novel The Marrow Thieves.



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