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2017 Kirkus Prize Winners Announced; Each Winner is Awarded $50,000:

Fiction:  What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky: Stories
by Lesley Nneka Arimah (Riverhead)
Nonfiction: The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea 
by Jack E. Davis (Liveright/Norton)
Young Readers’ Literature: The Marrow Thieves
by Cherie Dimaline (DCB)


Austin, TX; November 2, 2017 – At a special ceremony tonight in Austin, Kirkus Reviews, the nation’s leading journal of prepublication book reviews, announced the winners of the fourth annual Kirkus Prize in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature. Each winner receives a cash prize of $50,000, making the Kirkus Prize one of the richest annual literary awards in the world. This year’s winners were chosen from the 1,272 titles that received a starred review from Kirkus over the past year. An esteemed panel of judges composed of nationally respected writers and highly regarded booksellers, librarians, and Kirkus critics, select the Kirkus Prize finalists and winners each year.

The winners of the 2017 Kirkus Prize are:


What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky: Stories by Lesley Nneka Arimah (Riverhead)

Judges’ statement: Lesley Nneka Arimah sinuously moves through a variety of storytelling traditions with the grace of a dancer in the prime of her career. What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky is a kaleidoscopic and emotionally powerful collection that displays remarkable range, shifting from a dystopian exploration of a futuristic society to the interplay between mothers and daughters and to the legacy of the violent political struggles of Nigeria’s past. Her characters are as vivid and pronounced as her language, and the book is a testament to her command and unpredictability. Each story lands in an entirely new place, and wherever this writer goes next, she’s certain to provoke and surprise. Arimah’s stylistic breadth and intelligence are evident on every page of this masterful debut.

The judges for the 2017 Kirkus Prize in Fiction are: Kirkus critic and author Mark Athitakis, bookseller and NAIBA board member Hannah Oliver Depp, and writer Meg Wolitzer.

Fiction finalists:


The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis (Liveright/Norton)

Judges’ statement: The Gulf is a groundbreaking history of the sea illuminating the complex forces ravaging our environment. The Gulf of Mexico emerges as a power in itself in Jack E. Davis' enthralling narrative, animated by deft, vivid portraits of men and women who saw in the Gulf a source of sustenance, inspiration, and, not least, wealth. Fishermen, artists, writers, indigenous and migrant communities, adventurers, and greedy businessmen leap from the pages as Davis chronicles the fierce, wild, and fragile ecology of the American sea. A timeless cautionary tale, as rich and capacious as the region itself.

The judges for the 2017 Kirkus Prize in Non-fiction are: 2016 National Book Award winner Ibram X. Kendi, Book Table manager Javier Ramirez, and Kirkus critic and author Linda Simon.

Nonfiction finalists:


The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (DCB)

Judges’ statement: In Cherie Dimaline’s poetic and lyrical novel The Marrow Thieves, she presents the links between our past and our future in a world where dreams are harvested by those who continue to oppress the Indigenous peoples of North America. In the wake of environmental devastation, Frenchie joins a band of survivors led by Miig, the elder of a community on the run from those who wish to warehouse them and extract their bone marrow. With lush, illuminated language, Dimaline gives the readers strong, well-developed characters whose stories about coming to the group are revelatory, devastating, and, yet, ultimately, hopeful. She vividly demonstrates the intrinsic value and critical importance of knowing how your culture makes you who you are.

With taut pacing and strong reader appeal, this story confronts the illusion of a perfect, cleansed world, inviting parallels to history and current events.

The judges for the 2017 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature are: librarian Jos N. Holman, a former president of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association; writer Pam Muñoz Ryan, the author of Echo, a 2015 Kirkus Prize winner and Newbery Honor book; and Kirkus critic and librarian Laura Simeon.

Young Readers’ Finalists:

Picture Books:

Middle Grade:

Young Adult:

The Kirkus Prize was created in 2014 to celebrate the discerning, thoughtful criticism that Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large since it was founded in 1933. Previous winners of the Kirkus Prize are:


About Kirkus Reviews:

Founded in 1933, Kirkus has been one of the most trusted and authoritative voices in book discovery. When Kirkus Reviews was established by Virginia Kirkus, it was an innovation in the publishing field. Today, Kirkus Reviews covers more than 7,000 books published by traditional houses and more than 3,000 self-published books every year. The magazine is published on the 1st and 15th of every month, and because of the scope of their coverage, their authoritative voice and the timeliness of their reviews, Kirkus Reviews is revered by many as the first indicator of a book’s potential.

The chairman of Kirkus Media is Herb Simon. Marc Winkelman is the president and publisher, and Meg LaBorde Kuehn is the chief executive officer. The editor-in-chief of Kirkus Reviews is Claiborne Smith. Eric Liebetrau is the managing editor and nonfiction editor, Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor, the Vice-President of Indie is Karen Schechner and Vicky Smith is the children’s and teen editor.

For more information about the Kirkus Prize, including dates of eligibility, its rules and selection process, reviews of the finalists’ books and bios of the judges, please visit

For further information on Kirkus see


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