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Judges will announce 18 finalists in three categories:

Fiction, Nonfiction and Young Readers’ Literature on Sept. 9

Winners announced at a special virtual ceremony on Nov. 5


Aug. 11, 2020 – Kirkus Reviews, the nation’s leading journal of prepublication book reviews, announced the judges for the seventh annual Kirkus Prize, one of the richest literary awards in the world. The judges will award prizes in three categories—fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature— at a special virtual ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 5. Each prize comes with a $50,000 award. Panels of three highly regarded judges, composed of a writer, a Kirkus critic, and a bookseller or librarian will select the 2020 Kirkus Prize finalists and winners from among titles that have received a starred Kirkus review with publication dates between Nov. 1, 2019 and Oct. 31, 2020. Created in 2014, the Kirkus Prize celebrates 85+ years of discerning, thoughtful criticism Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large.

The judges for the 2020 Kirkus Prize are(full bios below)

Fiction Panel: Chang-rae Lee, Amy Reiter, Veronica Santiago Liu

Nonfiction Panel: Kiese Laymon, Erika Rohrbach, Nick Buzanski

Young Readers’ Literature Panel: Nicola Yoon, Kyle Lukoff, Roxanne Hsu Feldman

The judges will select 18 finalists in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature, to be announced on Sept. 9, 2020. The three winners, one in each category, will then be announced by the author judges at a special virtual ceremony, emceed by Kirkus CEO Meg LaBorde Kuehn, on Nov. 5, 2020. Previous winners include Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys, 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 Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?


Chang-rae Lee is the author of five novels, including Native Speaker, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award, and The Surrendered, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for fiction. His most recent novel was On Such a Full Sea, which was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. His new novel, My Year Abroad, will be published by Riverhead Books in early 2021. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Stanford. 

Amy Reiter has written about books and other topics for publications including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, the Daily Beast, the Barnes & Noble Review and Salon, where she was a longtime staff writer and editor. Her work has been anthologized in several books and garnered her appearances on CNN, MSNBC, and other news outlets. A Kirkus fiction reviewer, Amy also writes frequently about food for the Food Network and entertainment for the LA TimesThe Envelope.

Veronica Santiago Liu is the founder and general coordinator of the 60-person collective that operates Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria, a nonprofit bookstore and community space in Washington Heights, New York. Prior to that she was a contributing editor at Seven Stories Press, where she worked as managing then senior editor for more than a decade. Veronica currently sits on the American Booksellers Association’s Committee for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and in 2018 she was a Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree. Previously she has served as a judge for CLMP’s Firecracker Award for Fiction and for the Story Prize. Her writing, comics, and photography have been published in Broken PencilQuick FictionIn/Context, and other journals and zines.  


Kiese Laymon is a Black southern writer from Jackson, Mississippi. Laymon, the Ottillie Schillig Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi, is the author of Long Division, How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, and Heavy: An American Memoir, which was a Kirkus Prize finalist in 2018.

Erika Rohrbach reviews adult nonfiction, children’s books, and young adult literature for Kirkus. By day, she directs international student services at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Active in the international education community, she is the recipient of a number of awards, among them a Fulbright to Japan and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service. Erika has a variety of interests and has published on immigration topics relating to college students, as well as on H.D., Sappho, Carlyle, and Stein. She is also an avid choral singer and sits on the boards of the Dessoff Choirs and New York Choral Consortium.

Nick Buzanski is an independent bookseller of almost 20 years. He has worked at Green Apple Books in San Francisco, Strand Bookstore in New York, and was the general manager at the flagship Book Culture store before joining Books Are Magic in Brooklyn as general manager.


Nicola Yoon is the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also a Star. She is a National Book Award finalist, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book recipient, and a Coretta Scott King New Talent Award winner. Both her novels have been made into major motion pictures. Nicola grew up in Jamaica and Brooklyn and lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Kyle Lukoff has worked at the intersection of books and people for over half his life. He started as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble and then worked as the librarian at Corlears School in New York City. He is also the Stonewall Award–winning author of When Aidan Became A Brother, as well as the Max and Friends series, Explosion at the Poem Factory, the forthcoming middle-grade novel Too Bright To See, and other books.

Roxanne Hsu Feldman has been a children’s and school librarian for more than 25 years. Originally from Taiwan, she received a master’s degree in children’s literature from Simmons College, Boston, and an MLS from Long Island University. Roxanne is passionate about analyzing children’s books and has served on several award committees, including the Newbery and Boston Globe/Horn Book awards. For the third year, she co-runs School Library Journal’s “Mock Newbery” blog, Heavy Medal, and encourages open conversations about books and award criteria. 


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 4,000 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.

The Chairman of Kirkus Media is Herb SimonMarc Winkelman is the President and Publisher, and Meg LaBorde Kuehn is the Chief Executive Officer. The Editor-in-Chief of Kirkus Reviews is Tom Beer. The Vice-President of Indie is Karen Schechner. Eric Liebetrau is the Managing Editor and Nonfiction Editor, Laurie Muchnick is the Fiction Editor, and Laura Simeon and Vicky Smith are the Young Readers’ Editors.

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