Ta-Nehisi Coates won the MacArthur and now hes up for a Kirkus Award.
Ta-Nehisi Coates won a MacArthur and now he's up for a Kirkus Award.

Yeah, sure, we just had our annual Stranger Genius Awards. But the larger, more lucrative (but less explosive) MacArthur "genius" grants have just been announced. The literary types who just got $650,000 each from the MacArthur Foundation include Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ben Lerner, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

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Coates will give a Seattle Arts and Lectures talk in less than a month (the show's sold out: sry), but we'll be writing tons of stuff about him before and after that happens. In the meantime, have you read The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration yet? I'm only a few chapters in, but so far I can tell he's continuing to hone the rhetorical moves he perfected in The Case For Reparations. I love how he makes the historical personal, shows how the personal's political, and then offers a way for people to change the course of history, if they want to.

Ben Lerner comes out of that free-styling, extemporaneous debate scene that was so hot in Topeka lo these twenty years ago. Since then he's published several books of excellent poetry from Copper Canyon Press (you want Angle of Yaw), and a couple critically acclaimed novels that seem closely to mirror his personal life. In his latest, 10:04 he turduckens poetry into fiction into non-fiction in order to think about how humans perceive time. All that heady structural stuff is grounded in funny-sad vignettes that involve hurricanes in New York City, bagging dried mangos at a Brooklyn co-op, overdosing at literary parties, and the awkwardness of trying to have a baby platonically.

I've never seen or read anything by Lin-Manuel Miranda because I am a charlatan, but I hear Hamilton is pretty good.

Kirkus reviews are typically pretty sharp, quick, and on point, as they're written by librarians, booksellers, and award-winning writers. Each year, the journal awards prizes of $50,000 for each of three genres of writing. Fiction finalists for this years include Jim Shepard (The Book of Aron), Lucia Berlin (A Manual for Cleaning Women). Non-fiction nominees include Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me) and H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.

Here's the full list:


The Incarnations by Susan Barker (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster)

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

‪Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (Riverhead Books)

‪The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli; translated by Christina MacSweeney (Coffee House Press)

‪The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard (Alfred A. Knopf)

‪A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday)


Between the World and Me: Notes on the First 150 Years in America by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau)

Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It by John Ferling (Bloomsbury)

H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (Grove Press)

The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 by Adam Tooze (Viking)

Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers by Simon Winchester (Harper)

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf (Alfred A. Knopf)


Picture Book:

The New Small Person by Lauren Child (Candlewick)

Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter; illustrated by Shane W. Evans (Schwartz & Wade/Random House)

Middle Grade:
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan (Scholastic)

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams)

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough (Levine/Scholastic)

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older (Levine/Scholastic)