Author James McBride Awarded $50,000 Kirkus Prize

The Kirkus Reviews have awarded their top prize, the Kirkus Prize, to three literary works examining history and community.African-American author, musician, and screenwriter James McBride was one of the award recipients.

The Kirkus Prize is considered one of the richest literary awards in the world, with a prize of $50,000 given annually to authors of fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature.

Kirkus Reviews publisher Meg Kuehn gave a statement regarding the three winning works to NPR, saying: “History and community emerged as central themes in the most outstanding works of literature published this year.”

Kuehn added, “We see these ideas come to life in wildly different ways in all three of this year’s winners, each one compelling from beginning to end, begging to be celebrated, discussed, and shared.”

McBride won in the category of fiction for his novel “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store,” which is set in the fictional town of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in a racially mixed neighborhood called Chicken Hill. McBride won a National Book Award in 2013 for “The Good Lord Bird.” 

“James McBride has created a vibrant fictional world as only this master storyteller can,” the Kirkus Prize judges said in a citation. “The characters’ interlocking lives make for tense, absorbing drama as well as warm, humane comedy. This is a novel about small-town American life that is clear-eyed about prejudice yet full of hope for the power of community.”

Héctor Tobar won for his non-fiction book “Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of Latino.” Ariel Aberg-Riger won the prize for young readers literature for her debut, “America Redux: Visual Stories From Our Dynamic History.”

McBride’s landmark memoir, “The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother,” was published in 1996, and has sold millions of copies. It spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list.

His debut novel, “Miracle at St. Anna,” was turned into a 2008 film by Oscar-winning writer and director Spike, with a script written by McBride. His 2013 novel, “The Good Lord Bird,” about abolitionist John Brown, was a Showtime limited series in fall 2020 starring Ethan Hawke.

The Kirkus Prize is a relative newcomer to the literary awards scene, as it has only been around for 10 years, but its award winners and finalists have beeenat contributors to the American literary landscape. 


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