The Old Drift, by Namwali Serpell

Los Angeles Times : Book Prizes Winners Announced

April 17, 2020
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04/17/2020 | 12:01pm EDT

Winning authors share brief video acceptance speeches on Twitter

The 40th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were awarded today on The Times’ Books Twitter feed. The literary awards continue to champion new voices and celebrate the highest quality of writing from authors at all stages of their careers. Following each prize announcement, a video of the winner’s speech was shared on Twitter, with all videos now compiled on The Times’ YouTube page.

The Book Prizes recognized outstanding literary works in 12 categories, including the new Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction. Walter Mosley was honored with the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement, and WriteGirl received the Innovator’s Award for its contributions to the community, promoting literacy and creativity to empower girls. A complete list of this year’s Book Prizes winners follows.

Namwali Serpell, Winner,LA Times First-Tim Novelist

Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction: Namwali Serpell, “The Old Drift: A Novel.”

2019 Book Prizes Winners

  • Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction: Namwali Serpell, “The Old Drift: A Novel,” Hogarth
  • Biography: George Packer, “Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century,” Knopf
  • Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose: Emily Bernard, “Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine,” Knopf
  • Current Interest: Emily Bazelon, “Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration,” Random House
  • Fiction: Ben Lerner, “The Topeka School: A Novel,” Farrar, Straus, Giroux
  • Graphic Novel/Comics: Eleanor Davis, “The Hard Tomorrow,” Drawn & Quarterly
  • History: Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, “They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South,” Yale University Press
  • Mystery/Thriller: Steph Cha, “Your House Will Pay: A Novel,” Ecco
  • Poetry: Ilya Kaminsky, “Deaf Republic: Poems,” Graywolf Press
  • Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction: Marlon James, “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” (The Dark Star Trilogy Book 1), Riverhead
  • Science & Technology: Maria Popova, “Figuring,” Knopf
  • Young Adult Literature: Malla Nunn, “When the Ground is Hard,” G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Namwali’s Zambian debut novel follows three generations of three families, telling the story of a nation, and of the grand sweep of time. On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there was once a colonial settlement called The Old Drift. Here begins the story of a small African nation, told by a swarm-like chorus that calls itself man’s greatest nemesis.

The complete list of 2019 Book Prizes finalists and previous winners is available at latimes.com/BookPrizes, as is eligibility and judging information.

The Book Prizes awards ceremony is traditionally part of the Festival of Books weekend, but the springtime events were cancelled in light of public health concerns related to the coronavirus. The Festival of Books was rescheduled to Oct. 3-4 at USC. Festival of Books news and updates are available on the event websiteFacebook page and Twitter feed (#bookfest).

 

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