Kirkus Prize Finalists, National Book Foundation to Honor Karen Tei Yamashita, and More

by Staff

Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—publishing reports, literary dispatches, academic announcements, and more—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today’s stories.

The finalists for this year’s Kirkus Prizes, which are awarded for fiction, nonfiction, and young adult literature, have been announced. The fiction finalists include Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead and The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Meanwhile, Seek You by Kristen Radtke and Punch Me Up to the Gods by Brian Broome feature on the nonfiction list. Each prize comes with a purse of $50,000.

Novelist and playwright Karen Tei Yamashita will receive the National Book Foundation’s 2021 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, which honors lifetime achievement. “A bold and groundbreaking writer, Yamashita’s deeply creative body of work has made an enduring impact on our literary landscape,” says board chair David Steinberger.

“I started to see dictionaries, inexact as they are, as field guides to the life of language. Looking up words encountered in the wild felt less like a failing than like an admission that there are lots of things I don’t know and an opportunity to discover just how many.” Rachel del Valle writes about the unique rewards and pleasures to be found in dictionaries. (New York Times Magazine)

“I know it sounds trite—the painting, the nearly wordless flirtation—but meeting Stephen Key was important to me. Maybe all it was was an encounter with the innocence I felt I’d lost.” Novelist Ottessa Moshfegh writes about the artist she met on the eve of 9/11—and reconnecting with him years later. (GQ)

Staff who were working for Publishers Weekly on 9/11 recall how the day unfolded. “Our instinct was to race to the conference room to see on television what we had just seen in real life. For some reason, we needed the news to validate what we’d just seen,” writes Nora Rawlinson, then the editor in chief.

“When you’re writing a novel, the most important thing is detail. It’s thanks to detail that you can create a world that will be imaginable to the reader, a world in which the reader will be able to feel at home.” Olga Tokarczuk, whose short story “Yente” appears in the new issue of the New Yorker, speaks with fiction editor Deborah Treisman about the research behind her fiction.

Four nonfiction manuscripts are in the running for the sixth annual Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. The prize honors a debut book by a first-generation immigrant writer and alternates between fiction and nonfiction each year. (Common)

Last week the Library of Congress announced the recipients of this year’s Literacy Awards, which champion organizations that promote literacy. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library earned the $150,000 David M. Rubenstein Prize—the most valuable award. Parents as Teachers National Center and Luminos Fund each received $50,000 prizes. (Shelf Awareness)