Three books take home Kirkus Prizes

Authors each awarded $50,000 in Austin ceremony.

A novel about Southerners and the legacy of slavery, an investigation into transsexuality by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a young adult novel about an 11-year-old with anxiety issues have won the third annual Kirkus Prizes.

The awards, in the categories of fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature, were announced Thursday evening in a ceremony at the Four Seasons Residences in Austin, presented by Kirkus Review, the book review magazine owned by Austin businessman Marc Winkelman. This year’s winners were chosen from the 1,154 titles reviewed by the judges, a list that was narrowed down to six entries per category. Each winner receives $50,000, making it one of the largest book prizes in the world.

C.E. Morgan’s “The Sport of Kings” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) won for fiction. The judges — author Claire Messud, books retailer Annie Philbrick and Kirkus critic Gene Seymour — said in a statement: “The novel takes the kind of dauntless, breathtaking chances readers once routinely expected from the boldest of American novels. It is a profoundly orchestrated work that is both timeless and up-to-the-minute in its concerns, the most notable of which is what another Kentucky-bred novelist, Robert Penn Warren, once labeled ‘the awful responsibility of time.’”

Susan Faludi’s “In The Darkroom” (Metropolitan/Henry Holt) won for nonfiction. Faludi might be best known for her 1991 book “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women.” The judges — author and Kirkus critic Jim Piechota, Politics & Prose Bookstore owner Chris Schopp and journalist/novelist Héctor Tobar — called “Darkroom” “a compelling, lyrical, and candid exploration of identity, gender, and the intensely complex relationship between a transgendered father and her daughter.”

Jason Reynolds’ “As Brave as You” (Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/Atheneum) picked up the young readers’ prize. Flying Pig Bookstore owner Elizabeth Bluemle, critic and librarian Deborah D. Taylor and poet Jacqueline Woodson cited the book’s “textured writing, strong characterization, and the through-line of a complex legacy.”

Previous Kirkus Prize winners have included “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara, “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Euphoria” by Lily King and “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” by Roz Chast.

The awards have become the unofficial kickoff to Texas Book Festival weekend, which starts with the annual festival gala dinner Friday night.

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