Andrew Carnegie Medals 2021

The American Library Association (ALA) has selected Deacon King Kong (Riverhead Books) by James McBride as the winner of the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and Fathoms: The World in the Whale (Simon & Schuster) by Rebecca Giggs as the winner of the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.

The selections were announced February 4 at the Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) Book and Media Awards virtual event, sponsored by NoveList.


Deacon King Kong by James McBride

McBride’s novel takes place in a vibrant, multicultural 1969 Brooklyn neighborhood, and introduces readers to Cuffy “Sportcoat” Lambkin, the titular deacon and least likely of heroes. When Sportcoat shoots Deems Clemens, the boy he coached in baseball who has become a drug dealer, everyone assumes the deacon’s days of freedom are numbered. McBride creates tragedies, major plot twists, and cultural and generational clashes as characters develop emotionally while navigating a world that’s changing for better and for worse.


Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs

At the start of Fathoms, Giggs evokes depth as a unit of measurement for bodies of water and as “an attempt to understand.” With fresh perceptions and cascades of facts, she considers our ancient and persistent whale wonderment, high-tech whale hunting, global warming, mass extinction, and pollution, including the oceanic plastic plague, urging us to save the whales, the oceans, and ourselves.

The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, established in 2012, serve as a guide to help adults select quality reading material. Carnegie Medal winners will each receive $5,000. All the finalists will be honored during a celebratory event at ALA’s 2021 Annual Conference, which will be held virtually in June. 

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