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Judges will announce six finalists in three categories:

Fiction, Nonfiction and Young Readers’ Literature on September 17

Winners announced at a special ceremony in Austin on October 24



August 20, 2019 – Kirkus Reviews, the nation’s leading journal of prepublication book reviews, announced the judges for the sixth annual Kirkus Prize, one of the richest literary awards in the world. The judges for the Kirkus Prize will award $50,000 in each of three categories: fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature on Thursday, October 24, 2019 in Austin, TX. Panels of three highly regarded judges, composed of a writer, a bookseller or librarian, and a Kirkus critic, select the 2019 Kirkus Prize finalists and winners from among titles that have received a starred Kirkus review with publication dates between November 1, 2018 and October 31, 2019. Created in 2014, the Kirkus Prize celebrates 86 years of discerning, thoughtful criticism Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large.

The judges for the 2019 Kirkus Prize are(full bios below)

Fiction Panel: Min Jin Lee, Michelle Malonzo, David L. Ulin

Nonfiction Panel: Aaron John Curtis, Jack E. Davis, Richard Z. Santos

Young Readers’ Literature Panel: Pauletta Brown Bracy, Hanna Lee, Mitali Perkins

The judges will select six finalists in the categories of fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature, to be announced on September 17, 2019. The three winners will then be announced by the author judges at a special ceremony, emceed by new Kirkus Editor-in-Chief Tom Beer in Austin on October 24, 2019, at the prizes’ new home at the Austin Public Library. Previous winners include Ling Ma’s Severance, Rebecca Solnit’s Call Them by Their True Names, Susan Faludi’s In the Darkroom, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and MeA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan, As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds, and Roz Chast’s memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?


Min Jin Lee is a recipient of fellowships in Fiction from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study at Harvard. Her novel Pachinko (2017) was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, a runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the Medici Book Club Prize, and a New York Times 10 Best Books of 2017. A New York Times Bestseller, Pachinko was also a Top 10 Books of the Year for BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and the New York Public Library.

Michelle Malonzo is a buyer at Changing Hands Bookstore which has two locations in Arizona. Before that she worked for nearly 10 years at Penguin Random House, starting out as a publicity assistant at G. P. Putnam’s Sons and Riverhead Books. Michelle is on the board of directors of the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association (MPIBA), is a member of the American Booksellers Association Diversity Task Force, and previously served on the MPIBA Advisory Council.

David L. Ulin is the author or editor of 10 books, including Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles (2015), shortlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Tom and Mary Gallagher Fellowship from Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship. The former book editor and book critic of the Los Angeles Times, he teaches at the University of Southern California.


A member of the Akwesasne Kenien’kehá:ka (St. Regis Mohawk Tribe), Aaron John Curtis is known as Books & Books’ Quartermaster, which means he does whatever the bookstore needs on a given day. He wrote the monthly column “Book Junky” for Moxxi, Miami’s style magazine for women. He also reviewed books for Miami’s blog collective, The Heat Lightning. Curtis judged IndieBound’s first Indie’s Introduce debut author program and he’s been a reader for both the Center for Fiction’s Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize and the Southern Independent Booksellers Association awards. He was on the American Booksellers Association’s panel for the Revisit & Rediscover backlist initiative and he’s a member of the ABA’s Booksellers Advisory Council.

Jack E. Davis is the author of The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea (2017), recipient of the Kirkus Prize for nonfiction and the Pulitzer Prize in history. A professor of history and occupant of the Rothman Family Chair in the Humanities at the University of Florida, Davis was awarded an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship in 2019 to support his next book project, the cultural and natural history of the bald eagle.

Richard Z. Santos is a writer and high school teacher living in Austin. His essays, reviews, and profiles have appeared in Kirkus Reviews, The Morning News, The Rumpus, Cosmonauts Avenue, The San Antonio Express News, The Los Angeles Review of Books and many others. For three years he has served as a judge for the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize. His fiction has appeared in multiple venues and he has recently completed his second novel.


Pauletta Brown Bracy is Professor of Library Science at North Carolina Central University. She has taught courses in children’s and young adult services and literature; her areas of interest include the portrayal of the African American experience in children’s and young adult literature. Pauletta has been active in the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, having served as Chair (2015-2017) and Chair of both the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury and the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement Jury. She is the 2019 recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Kirkus reviewer Hanna Lee is the Youth Services Coordinator at First Regional Library in northwest Mississippi. A former American Library Association Emerging Leader, she will serve on the 2021 Caldecott Medal jury. She was a member of ALA’s Association for Library Service to Children’s 2017-2018 Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, has provided academic support to students of color and first generation college students, taught middle and high school students, and served in the administration at an international school.

Mitali Perkins has written 12 novels for young readers, including Between Us and Abuela (2019), Forward Me Back to You (2019), You Bring the Distant Near (2017) and Rickshaw Girl (2008), all of which explore crossing different kinds of borders. She was honored as a “Most Engaging Author” by independent booksellers across the country and has addressed a diversity of audiences in schools and libraries, as well as at festivals and conferences. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India before immigrating to the United States.


About Kirkus Reviews

Founded in 1933, Kirkus Reviews 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. Virginia arranged to receive advance galley proofs of books from publishers — only 20 or so at first, but eventually from nearly every firm of any size in the industry. She read the galleys and wrote brief, critical evaluations of their literary merit and probable popular appeal. 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 its coverage, its authoritative voice and the timeliness of its reviews, Kirkus Reviews is revered by many as the first indicator of a book’s potential.


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