The year has just begun, but we've already got new literary awards to discuss. Announced Sunday, the 2019 Carnegie Medal Winners are The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai and Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Layton. Makkai's novel about the AIDS crisis and its legacy received the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and Layton's memoir about growing up black in America won the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. Both winners will receive $5,000 and be honored at the 2019 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition in Washington, D.C. on June 20-25.
This year's Carnegie Medal winners went up against stiff competition. The Great Believers beat out There There by Tommy Orange and Washington Black by Esi Edugyan to win the 2019 Carnegie Medal. Likewise, Heavy: An American Memoir came in ahead of Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy and The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú.
Of course, both winners also displaced 39 other books — including An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara, and The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil — as part of the climb from longlist to finalist.
Winning this year's Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction puts Makkai's novel in the good company of these former winners, among others:
- Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (2018)
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2017)
- The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2016)
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2015)
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2014)
Kiese Laymon's Heavy: An American Memoir joins a similarly great pool of books, including:
- Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (2017)
- Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann (2016)
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (2015)
- The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2014)
The 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction was not awarded.
The Great Believers and Heavy: An American Memoir will receive further time to shine this June, when the 2019 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition hits Washington, D.C.