Hernan Diaz, Tanaïs, and Harmony Becker are the winners of this year’s Kirkus Prizes, one of the world’s richest literary awards, given annually to books of exceptional merit in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature.
The winners were announced Thursday evening in a hybrid ceremony at the Austin Central Library in Austin, Texas, hosted by Kirkus Media CEO Meg LaBorde Kuehn and streamed live on YouTube. Each award comes with a $50,000 cash prize.
Diaz won in the fiction category for his novel Trust, which follows a wealthy New York couple in the early 20th century whose lives might not be quite what they seem. The judges praised the way Diaz “uses multiple perspectives and forms to push the boundaries of what a novel can do,” and called the novel “a true literary delight.”
The judges for this year’s fiction prize were author Deesha Philyaw (The Secret Lives of Church Ladies), bookseller Luis Correa, Kirkus critic Wendy Smith, and Kirkus fiction editor Laurie Muchnick.
Tanaïs was named the winner in the nonfiction category for In Sensorium: Notes for My People, a memoir that incorporates history, geography, and cultural criticism alongside an exploration of perfumes and scents. The judges cited the book’s “daring, inventiveness, vision, and lyrical eloquence,” and said, “seductive, vital, and incomparable, this is a reading experience that endures.”
Judging this year’s nonfiction award were author Hanif Abdurraqib (A Little Devil in America), librarian Lillian Dabney, Kirkus critic Sarah Norris, and Kirkus nonfiction editor Eric Liebetrau.
Becker won the young readers’ literature prize for Himawari House, a young adult graphic novel about three foreign exchange students who befriend one another while living in Japan. The judges noted the book’s “remarkable mastery of graphic novel conventions and its perceptive exploration of emotionally resonant, evergreen themes relating to family, friendship, and identity.”
The judging panel for the young readers’ literature prize was made up of author/illustrator Jerry Craft (New Kid), librarian and educator Junko Yokota, Kirkus critic Alec B. Chunn, and Kirkus young readers’ editor Laura Simeon.
The Kirkus Prize was first awarded in 2014. Past winners have included Ling Ma for Severance, Jack E. Davis for The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea, and Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James for I Am Every Good Thing.
This was the first in-person Kirkus Prize ceremony since 2019; due to the pandemic, the event was held virtually in 2020 and 2021. “There’s something truly magical about the energy in a room when it’s full of people who have gathered to celebrate art, to recognize achievement, and ultimately, to share love—of books, of the craft, and of each other,” Kuehn told the audience in her opening remarks.
The ceremony in its entirety can be watched on the Kirkus YouTube channel.
Michael Schaub, a journalist and regular contributor to NPR, lives near Austin, Texas.