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Maaza Mengiste, Namwali Serpell are Los Angeles Times Book Prizes 2019 finalists.

Maaza Mengiste and Namwali Serpell are finalists at the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes 2019 announced on February 19, 2020. Also on the list are Marlon James and Colson Whitehead.

The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were founded in 1980 by Art Seidenbaum, a Los Angeles Times book editor from 1978 to 1985. The prizes are awarded in the categories of biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction, history, mystery/thriller, poetry, science and technology, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction, and young adult fiction.

The finalists for the 2019 edition announced feature four novelists of African descent in the fiction, first fiction, and Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction categories. The continental Africans are Maaza Mengiste for her novel The Shadow King and Namwali Serpell for her debut novel The Old Drift. The Africans from the diaspora are Marlon James for Black Leopard, Red Wolf and Colson Whitehead for The Nickel Boys.

The finalists in the different categories are;

Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.

  • María Gainza, trans. Thomas Bunstead, “Optic Nerve”
  • Lila Savage, “Say Say Say”
  • Namwali Serpell, “The Old Drift”
  • Sarah Elaine Smith, “Marilou is Everywhere”
  • De’Shawn Charles Winslow, “In West Mills”


  • Tash Aw, “We, the Survivors”
  • Madeline fitch, “Stay and Fight”
  • Ben Lerner, “The Topeka School”
  • Maaza Mengiste, “The Shadow King”
  • Colson Whitehead, “The Nickel Boys”

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”

The winners in the various categories 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. The author of each winning book and the Kirsch Award recipient receives a citation and $1,000.

By James Murua

This blog is run by James Murua a Nairobi, Kenya based lover of books.

2 replies on “Maaza Mengiste, Namwali Serpell are Los Angeles Times Book Prizes 2019 finalists.”

That’s wonderful…and no doubt, writers here at home feel inspired. They can’t wait to look up to her…

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