Berea writer C.E. Morgan wins Kirkus Prize for ‘The Sport of Kings’

Author C.E. Morgan at her home in Berea.
Author C.E. Morgan at her home in Berea.

C.E. Morgan’s Kentucky-set novel, The Sport of Kings, has won the fiction category for the 2016 Kirkus Prize.

Morgan is a graduate of Berea College and lives part-time in Berea.

Kirkus Reviews is the nation’s leading journal of prepublication book reviews.

Each winner receives a cash prize of $50,000. Winners, announced Thursday evening in Austin, included Morgan and The Sport of Kings in fiction, In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi in nonfiction and As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds in young readers’ literature.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance, was among the nonfiction finalists. Vance will be at the Kentucky Book Fair on Nov. 5 at the Frankfort Convention Center.

Judges in the fiction category were award-winning author Claire Messud (The Emperor’s Children); Annie Philbrick, the owner of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut and Savoy Bookshop and Cafe in Westerly, Rhode Island; and journalist and Kirkus critic Gene Seymour.

The judges’ statement praised The Sport of Kings for taking “the kind of dauntless, breathtaking chances readers once routinely expected from the boldest of American novels. Though ostensibly a time-spanning saga about a family of Kentucky horse breeders, Morgan’s ambitious multi-layered narrative also dives deep into the toxic legacies of sex, race, regional, and class divisions.”

It also said that Morgan’s book “is both timeless and up-to-the-minute in its concerns, the most notable of which is what another Kentucky-bred novelist, Robert Penn Warren, once labeled ‘the awful responsibility of time.’”

Other fiction finalists were Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett, Carousel Court by Joe McGinniss Jr.; Barkskins by Annie Proulx; A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles; and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

Faludi’s book, In the Darkroom, explored identity, gender and the relationship between a daughter and her father, who underwent gender reassignment surgery. Reynolds’ book, As Brave As You concerns an 11-year-old Brooklynite who has “worry issues” when he is sent to his estranged grandparents’ home in Virginia.