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Kirkus Prize Finalists Include Annie Proulx, Sherman Alexie, Jason Reynolds

Dorling Kindersley
Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley RF

From the lingering sins of a nation's snarled roots to the complexities of mental illness and even to the colorful quest for a name of one's own, the books that round out this year's Kirkus Prize shortlists won't let you easily forget history — on whatever scale it's defined.

In fact, many of them place it squarely at the center of their narratives. Award-season favorites Annie Proulx and Colson Whitehead plumb the depths of America's past, dredging drama from some of its least admirable eras. Meanwhile, Michael Eric Dyson's take on President Obama seeks to seat today's politics firmly in the context of its forebears. For that matter, even the picture books have their fair share to say (and portray) about history, both personal and public.

On Nov. 3, these 18 books will be winnowed to just three — the winners in the categories of fiction, nonfiction and young readers' literature. Each winner will receive a purse of $50,000.

Find the list of finalists — with links to NPR's coverage — below.

Kirkus Prize Shortlists


Adam Haslett, Imagine Me Gone
Joe McGinniss Jr., Carousel Court
C.E. Morgan, The Sport of Kings
Annie Proulx, Barkskins
Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad


Sarah Bakewell, At the Existentialist Cafe
Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
Michael Eric Dyson, The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America
Susan Faludi, In the Darkroom
Beth Macy, Truevine
J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Young Readers' Literature

Sherman Alexie (writer) and Yuyi Morales (illustrator), Thunder Boy Jr.
Ashley Bryan, Freedom Over Me:Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life
Russell Freedman, We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Adolf Hitler
Jason Reynolds, As Brave as You
Traci Chee, The Reader
Meg Medina, Burn Baby Burn

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.

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