The finalists for the 43rd Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were announced Wednesday, with Rachel Howzell Hall, James Hannaham and George Saunders among the nominees for the annual literary awards.
The winners in three special categories were also announced. James Ellroy receives the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement; the Freedom to Read Foundation of the American Library Assn. receives the Innovator’s Award; and Javier Zamora are awarded the Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose.
The remaining Book Award winners, selected from 56 finalists in 11 categories, will be announced at a ceremony on Friday, April 21 at USC’s Bovard Auditorium, the night before the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Bookswhich takes place over the weekend of April 22-23.
Notable fiction finalists include Hannaham’s “Didn’t Nobody Give a S— What Happened to Carlotta,” which follows an Afro-Colombian transgender woman who has just been released from prison; “Paradais,” Fernanda Melchor’s dark novel about Mexico City’s underclass; and “Exalted”, a Los Angeles astrological satire by Anna Dorn.
Hall, a previous Book Award finalist, is in the mystery/thriller category for her novel “We Lie Here,” about a TV writer who becomes entangled in family secrets while visiting her parents in Palmdale, California. Other finalists include Alex Segura’s ‘Secret Identity’, about a comic book artist in the 1970s, and Tracy Lien’s Australian-set murder mystery ‘All That’s Left Unsaid’.
Other nominees include ‘The Persuaders’ by Anand Giridharadas in the current interest category; David Maraniss’ biography ‘Path Lit by Lightning’, about native athlete Jim Thorpe; and Ed Yong’s exploration of animal senses, “An Immense World,” in the science and technology category. Saunders, acclaimed short story writer and Booker Prize winner, is a finalist for the Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction with his latest collection, Liberation Day: Stories.
Ellroy, who will receive the Robert Kirsch Award for his work focusing on the American West, is best known for his LA crime novels such as “LA Confidential” and “The Black Dahlia” – both part of his bestselling LA Quartet.
Ellroy has also written an investigative memoir, “My Dark Places”, as well as dozens of novels, many of which have been adapted into films, graphic novels and podcasts.
“We are pleased to recognize LA noir iconoclast James Ellroy with this year’s Kirsch Award,” said Times Books editor Boris Kachka. “James’s writing life was shaped by the tragic, unsolved murder of his mother when he was 10, leading him to nurture an obsession with crime and the underworld that has animated his fiction and non-fiction throughout the decades.”
The Freedom to Read Foundation is honored with the Innovator’s Award, which highlights efforts to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future. The nonprofit’s work includes protecting the public’s right to access information in libraries and providing legal advice to librarians fighting to preserve their First Amendment rights.
Among the cases the organization has supported was one that resulted in a 2011 Supreme Court ruling overturning a California law prohibiting the sale of violent video games to minors. Freedom to Read has also been active in documenting and combating the current nationwide wave of school library book bans.
“The organization was created to support and defend librarians and is as important and relevant today as it was when it was founded in 1969,” said Julia Turner, Times deputy editor of entertainment and strategy. “We honor his continued fight against book bans and his mission to protect the right of all Americans to read and access information.”
Zamora, winner of the 2022 Christopher Isherwood Prize, walked unaccompanied from El Savador to California at age 9 to reunite with his parents. Twenty years later, the author and poet wrote about it in his debut memoir, ‘Solito’.
The judges for the Isherwood Prize, which recognizes exceptional autobiographical work that can encompass fiction, travelogue, memoir or diaries, commented not only on the remarkable story itself “but also the way it is told.”
“Somehow, Zamora, an award-winning poet, stays true to the child’s perspective without compromising on language or craftsmanship,” the judges said. “We are delighted to give him this award.”
See the full list of finalists below.
Tomiko Brown-Nagin, “Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Fight for Equality”
Beverly Gage, “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century”
Jennifer Homans, “Mr. B: George Balanchine’s 20th Century”
David Maraniss, “Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe”
Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, “His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice”
Mircea Cărtărescu, “Solenoid” (translation by Sean Cotter)
Anna Dorn, “Exalted”
James Hannaham, “Didn’t Give Anyone an S – What Happened to Carlotta”
Jamil Jan Kochai, “The Ghost of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories”
Fernanda Melchor, “Paradais” (translation by Sophie Hughes)
Alex Graham, “Dog Biscuits”
Yamada Murasaki, “Talk to My Back” (translation by Ryan Holmberg)
Tommi Parrish, “Men I Trust”
Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith, “Wash Day Diaries”
Noah Van Sciver, “Joseph Smith and the Mormons”
Margaret A. Burnham, “By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners”
Hugh Eakin, “Picasso’s War: How Modern Art Came to America”
Kerri K. Greenidge, “The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family”
Andrew M. Wehrman, “The Contagion of Liberty: The Politics of Smallpox in the American Revolution”
Donald Yacovone, “Learning White Supremacy: America’s Democratic Trial and the Forging of Our National Identity”
Rachel Howzell Hall, “We Lie Here”
Laurie R. King, ‘Back to the Garden’
Tracey Lien, “All That Remains Unspoken”
Alex Segura, “Secret Identity”
Peng Shepherd, “The Cartographers”
Dionne Brand, “Nomenclature: New and Collected Poems”
James Cagney, “Martian: The Saint of Loneliness”
Marwa Helal, “Ante-body”
Cynthia Parker-Ohene, “Daughters of Harriet: Poems”
Solmaz Sharif, “Customs: Poems”
Science & Technology
Juli Berwald, “Life on the Rocks: Building a Future for Coral Reefs”
Jessica Hernandez, “Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Native Landscapes through Native Science”
Sabrina Imbler, “How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures”
James Vincent, “Beyond Measure: The Hidden History of Measurement From Cubits to Quantum Constants”
Ed Yong, “An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us”
The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction
Aamina Ahmad, “The Return of Faraz Ali”
Maayan Eitan, “Love”
Sidik Fofana, “Stories from the Tenants Downstairs”
Oscar Hokeah, “Call for a Blanket Dance”
Morgan Thomas, “Everywhere: Stories”
The Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction
Sara Gran, “The Book of the Most Precious Cloth”
Nicola Griffith, “Spear”
Alex Jennings, “The Ballad of Dangerous Graves”
Ray Nayler, “The Mountain in the Sea: A Novel”
George Saunders, “Liberation Day: Stories”
Samira Ahmed, “Hollow fires”
Lyn Miller-Lachmann, “Torch”
Sabaa Tahir, “All my anger”
Andrew Joseph White, “Hell Followed With Us”
Kip Wilson, “The most dazzling girl in Berlin”
Anand Giridharadas, “The Persuaders: On the Frontline of the Fight for Hearts, Minds and Democracy”
Sarah Kendzior, “They Knew It: How a Culture of Conspiracy Keeps America Complacent”
Dahlia Lithwick, “Lady Justice: Women, the Law, and the Fight to Save America”
Luke Mogelson, “The storm is here: an American melting pot”
Dorothy Roberts, “Torn apart: How the child support system is destroying black families – and how abolition can make for a safer world”