National Book Critics Circle To Launch A New Prize for Books in Translation, Named in Honor of Longtime Board Member Gregg Barrios

By Tara Merrigan

Chicago, IL (November 3, 2021) – The National Book Critics Circle is pleased to announce that it will offer a new prize: Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize. This prize, ratified by the NBCC board at its June meeting, seeks to highlight the artistic merit of literature in translation and recognize translators’ valuable work, which expands and enriches American literary culture by bringing world literature to English-language readers. 

Starting with the 2022 publishing year, the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize will honor the best book of any genre translated into English and published in the United States. The prize recognizes books for their excellence and artistry and is open to translations of books authored by living or deceased writers. New translations of previously translated books will also be considered. The prize will judge the translated English-language book as a work itself. 

Both NBCC board and regular members will serve as judges for the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize. The winner of the new prize will be announced in the March ceremony along with other NBCC prize winners. The prize will be awarded to both the author and translator, and the NBCC will invite both translator and author on stage to receive their award and give speeches. 

The prize is named after board member Gregg Barrios, a Latino poet, playwright and book critic who passed away in August at age 80. A South Texas native, Vietnam War-era veteran, and longtime resident of San Antonio, Gregg joined the board of the National Book Critics Circle in 2010 with a desire to give greater representation to those in the country’s “vast heartlands” of the U.S., and to reach the Latinx community. 

As a  board member of the NBCC, Gregg funded the Balakian Prize for book critics with a cash prize of $1000 beginning in 2012, after selling the film rights to his play Rancho Pancho. Gregg also chaired the John Leonard Prize committee and served as the organization’s first VP of Diversity and Inclusion. He firmly believed that the NBCC should have a prize for literature in translation.

NBCC President David Varno said of the prize: “There have been talks within the NBCC about adding a prize for translated literature for years, and I am so pleased we have found a way to make it work. This will not only ensure that the NBCC will honor the best work in translation each year, but it will offer a new opportunity for all dues-paying members of the organization to nominate books and participate in prize deliberations.” 

The National Book Critics Circle was founded in April 1974 in New York City and is currently made up of board members, committee groups, and members of all types from around the United States. Serving nearly 800 member critics, authors, literary bloggers, book publishing professionals, student members, and friends, the National Book Critics Circle honors outstanding writing and fosters a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature. Their community impact goes beyond memberships, reaching the reading public through their website and at free public events nationwide, such as this conversation on institutional inequities.

Publishers will be able to submit books for consideration via the Submissions Portal starting in early 2022.  For more information on the prize, visit


Tara Wanda Merrigan, Chair,
Translation Prize Working Group,

David Varno, President