Awards Fiction United States

Writers of African descent on Los Angeles Times Book Prize 2020 winners list

There are several writers of African descent on the Los Angeles Times Book Prize 2020 winners list announced on April 16, 2021.

U.S. newspaper the Los Angeles Times has awarded book prizes in biography, current interest, fiction, first, history, mystery/thriller, poetry, science and technology (category added in 1989), and young adult fiction since 1980. Some previous winners of this prize from Africa include NoViolet Bulawayo, Dinaw Mengestu, Uzodinma Iweala, Namwali Serpell, and Marlon James.

The finalists for the awards were announced on March 2 with many African American writers making the cut. The winners were revealed at a virtual event hosted by Times Book Editor Boris Kachka in 12 different categories.

“The pandemic has upended every single aspect of our lives, but I suspect many of you will agree with me that it’s only deepened our appreciation for the solitary pleasure of reading,” said Kachka in his introduction. “[Reading] is solitary but of course it’s communal, too, because in reading we communicate with socially-distanced writers and all their characters, real or invented. We may isolate, but as long as we have books we are never isolated.”

Here are the writers of African descent winners in their categories;

  • Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction: Deesha Philyaw, “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies,” West Virginia University Press
  • Current Interest: Isabel Wilkerson, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” Random House
  • Fiction: David Diop and Anna Moschovakis (translator), “At Night All Blood Is Black: A Novel,” Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Young Adult Literature: Ibi Zoboi and Dr. Yusef Salaam, “Punching the Air,” Balzer + Bray

Author comments (via Twitter)

Deesha Philyaw
Deesha Philyaw

I wrote The Secret Lives of Church Ladies in hopes that Black women would see and hear themselves in my characters and their stories. I wrote it to be a balm, an affirmation, a celebration, and a guidepost for getting free. In what has been a devastating year, we are all looking for comfort, solace, and healing, all of which we can find in the shelter of each other and in books. I love hearing from readers that my book has sparked healing conversations in their families and within their churches, even though it’s a book that challenges many of the church’s foundational teachings about women and sex. I imagine my book out in the world doing what the late John Lewis encouraged us to do: Stir up good trouble. May we all do our part to bring healing where there is hurt, and justice where there is injustice, and may we all be free. Many thanks to @latimes @latimesbooks and to the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction judges @melissachadburn , @Jennymcphee , and @rickawhitaker ! And THANK YOU to all of you who have supported and celebrated the Church Ladies and me!

David Diop
David Diop

Wonderful feeling yesterday to see my novel awarded the @latimes #41st book prize for the best fiction novel. Most grateful and thankful to my translator Anna Moschovakisfor her magic work on #AtDarkAllBloodIsBlack

Ibi Zoboi
Ibi Zoboi

PUNCHING THE AIR is the winner of the LA Times Book Prize in YA Literature! Congrats to all the winners & finalists. Thank you to the judges.

By James Murua

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

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