Pittsburgh author Brian Broome wins prestigious Kirkus Prize | Literary Arts | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh author Brian Broome wins prestigious Kirkus Prize

click to enlarge Brian Broome - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Brian Broome
Pittsburgh author Brian Broome has been announced as the winner of the 2021 Kirkus Prize in nonfiction for his memoir Punch Me Up to the Gods. The award, announced during a virtual ceremony on Thu., Oct. 28, is one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world and comes with a prize of $50,000.

"Ohhhhhh crap," said Broome when the camera first turned to him during the virtual ceremony. "Oh geez. Are you kidding me? Um, wow. I do not know what to say. I’m sitting here by myself because I thought there was no way in heck that this would be happening to me."

Punch Me Up to the Gods was nominated for the nonfiction award alongside Kristen Radtke’s Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness, Tiya Miles’ All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake, Dara Horn’s People Love Dead Jews: Reports From a Haunted Present, Katherine E. Standefer’s Lightning Flowers: My Journey to Uncover the Cost of Saving a Life, and Juan Villoro’s Horizontal Vertigo: A City Called Mexico, translated by Alfred MacAdam.

click to enlarge A screencap of Brian Broome after his name is announced as the winner during the Kirkus Reviews live streaming ceremony
A screencap of Brian Broome after his name is announced as the winner during the Kirkus Reviews live streaming ceremony

Broome thanked his fellow nominees in his acceptance speech. "It has been an honor to have my name mentioned in the same sentences as you for the past couple of weeks," he said. He also thanked others, including his mother who he waved to on the camera. "Mom, I know you're watching."


An introduction of Broome's book during the ceremony said the judges were "dazzled by the book's unique structure, framed by Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem 'We Real Cool' and by its self-lacerating, but ultimately hopeful insight."

Punch Me Up to the Gods, which chronicles Broome's journey as a Black gay man and his struggles with race, sexuality, addiction, and recovery, has been listed on multiple "best of" lists since its May 2021 release, including Entertainment Weekly, Apple Books, Amazon Books, and Publisher's Weekly.

"It is so gratifying for someone like me to be in this position," Broome said while accepting the award.

Pittsburgh writer Sharon Flake was also a finalist for a 2021 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers' literature for her book The Life I'm In. Christina Soontornvat won that category for her book All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team.

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