The winner of The Story Prize for books published in 2020 is The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (West Virginia University Press) by Deesha Philyaw. This is the first time that The Story Prize winner has been published by a small or university press, and Philyaw is only the fourth debut writer to take the prize. The others were Patrick O'Keeffe, Daniyal Mueenuddin, and Claire Vaye Watkins.
Director Larry Dark, and Founder Julie Lindsey selected the three finalists for The Story Prize, now in its 17th year, from among 121 books entered in 2020, representing 89 different publishers or imprints. Three judges—critic and author Ismail Muhammad, bookseller Margot Sage-EL of Watchung Booksellers, and writer and Williams College professor Karen Shepard—determined the winner from among the three books chosen as finalists.
A video we've posted on YouTube features readings by and interviews with Philyaw and the other two finalists for books published in 2020: The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (Riverhead Books) and Likes by Sarah Shun-lien (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
The Story Prize’s $20,000 top prize is among the largest first-prize amounts of any annual U.S. book award for fiction. Philyaw also received an engraved silver bowl, which The Story Prize presents to all winners. As runners-up, Evans and Bynum each received $5,000.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies was also a finalist for The National Book Award for fiction and is a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and a Los Angeles Times Book Award. In addition, the book is in development as an HBO series.
Buy The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, Likes, and The Office of Historical Corrections from your local bookseller or on Bookshop.
Congratulations to Deesha Philyaw, and West Virginia University Press!