Kirkus Prize Judges

Each panel is composed of an author, a bookseller or librarian, and a Kirkus critic.

FICTION
2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014

Deesha Philyaw, Author

Deesha Philyaw’s debut story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2020/2021 Story Prize, and the 2020 Los Angeles Times Book Prize: The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. It was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction and is being adapted for television by HBO Max with Tessa Thompson executive producing. Deesha is also a Kimbilio Fiction fellow and will be the 2022-2023 John and Renée Grisham writer-in-residence at the University of Mississippi.

Luis Correa, Bookseller

Luis Correa is the operations manager and bookseller for Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia. He is a member of the American Bookseller Association (ABA) committee on diversity, equity and inclusion, ABA’s IndieCommerce advisory committee, and is a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance influencer.

Wendy Smith, Critic

Wendy Smith is a book reviewer and essayist. She is a contributing editor at The American Scholar, which has published more than two dozen of her essays on literature and the performing arts. She was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle’s Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing in 2010 and 2019. She is the author of Real Life Drama: The Group Theatre and America, 1931-1940. She lives in Brooklyn, her hometown since she was six months old.

NONFICTION

Hanif Abdurraqib, Author

Hanif Abdurraqib is a writer from the East Side of Columbus, Ohio. He is an editor-at-large at Tin House and a MacArthur fellow. His book Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest was a finalist for the 2019 Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction, and his most recent book, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, won the 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.

Lillian Dabney, Librarian

Lillian Dabney received her MLIS from the University of Washington. She works as the adult services librarian and is in charge of library operations at the Seattle Athenaeum, one of three membership libraries on the West Coast. She previously served on the American Library Association’s notable awards committee for 2019-2021.

Sarah Norris, Critic

Sarah Norris is a writer and editor who began reviewing nonfiction for Kirkus in 2005. She has written about books and culture for the New Yorker, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Village Voice, the Nashville Scene, and others, and holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Sarah Lawrence. After 15 years in New York, she now lives in Nashville. 

YOUNG READERS’ LITERATURE

Jerry Craft, Author

Jerry Craft is the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author-illustrator of the Newbery Medal–winning graphic novel, New Kid, and its companion, Class ActNew Kid is the winner of the Coretta Scott King Author Award and the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature. Craft is the creator of “Mama’s Boyz,” an award-winning syndicated comic strip. He has won five African American Literary Awards and is a cofounder of the Schomburg Center’s Annual Black Comic Book Festival. He received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts and lives in Connecticut. 

Junko Yokota, Librarian

Junko Yokota is director of the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books and professor emeritus at National Louis University (Chicago). Her research focuses on picture-book illustration, multicultural books, and international literature. She has published widely and co-authored Children’s Books in Children’s Hands. She has served on committees including the Newbery, Pura Belpré, Asian/Pacific American Award, and Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, and chaired the Caldecott, Batchelder, Children’s Literature Legacy, Ezra Jack Keats, Nami Concours, and IBBY Hans Christian Andersen award committees.

Alec B. Chunn, Critic

Alec B. Chunn is a Kirkus reviewer and children’s librarian outside Portland, Oregon. He holds dual master’s degrees in children’s literature and library and information science from Simmons University. Chunn’s writing has appeared in School Library Journal, Booklist’s Guide to Graphic Novels in Libraries, and the Oregon Library Association Quarterly. He served on the 2021 Caldecott Award committee.

The Magazine: Kirkus Reviews

Featuring 360 industry-first reviews of fiction, nonfiction, children’s and YA books; also in this issue: Tommie Smith, Yiyun Li, Dahlia Lithwick, Darren Aronofsky & Ari Handel; and more

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  • The Kirkus Star

    One of the most coveted designations in the book industry, the Kirkus Star marks books of exceptional merit.

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  • The Kirkus Prize

    The Kirkus Prize is among the richest literary awards in America, awarding $50,000 in three categories annually.

    See the 2020 winners.

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