Brian Broome

Brian Broome was revealed to be the nonfiction category winner at the  Kirkus Awards 2021 in a virtual ceremony on Thursday, October 28, 2021.

Kirkus Reviews is a US book review magazine that publishes previews of books prior to their publication founded by Virginia Kirkus in 1933. The Kirkus Prize was created to celebrate the years of criticism that Kirkus Reviews had contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large. It is one of the richest literary awards in the world, with $50,000 bestowed annually to authors of fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature.

Lesley Nneka Arimah won the fiction category for her short story collection What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky in 2017. Those who have been shortlisted have been Dinaw Mengestu (2014), Tomi Adeyemi (2018), and Laila Lalami (2019). 2019 was a truly Black year at Kirkus as Colson Whitehead won in the fiction category, Saeed Jones took the honours in the nonfiction category and Jerry Craft was recognised in the Young Adult Category. In 2020, Raven Leilani, Mychal Denzel Smith, Gordon C. James and Derrick Barnes won in their categories.

The winners for the 2021 edition for the prize were awarded in a virtual on Thursday evening. Brian Broome was named the winner in the nonfiction category for Punch Me Up to the Gods, his memoir about growing up Black and gay in Ohio. The judges called Broome’s book a “powerfully vulnerable and bleakly funny memoir” and said they were “dazzled by the book’s unique structure, framed by Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem ‘We Real Cool, and by its self-lacerating but ultimately hopeful insights.”

“Are you kidding me? Wow!” exclaimed Broome, visibly stunned by the news. “It is so gratifying for somebody like me to be in this position. It’s amazing. I think I probably need to make a few phone calls now.”

Selecting this year’s nonfiction winner were critic Margaret Quamme; bookseller Karen Maeda Allman; National Book Award–winning author Masha Gessen; and Eric Liebetrau, nonfiction and managing editor of Kirkus Reviews.