28th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Presented

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library is pleased to announce the winners of the 28th annual Minnesota Book Awards. In addition to winners in eight categories, The Friends presented the Minnesota Book Artist, Hognander Minnesota History, and Kay Sexton Awards to previously announced honorees—respectively, Wendy Fernstrum, William D. Green, and Jim Sitter.

Minnesota Book AwardsMore than 900 people attended an award ceremony at Saint Paul’s Union Depot on Saturday, April 16, emceed by Stephanie Curtis, producer of Minnesota Public Radio’s “The Thread”, and one of the Cube Critics on All Things Considered. Announced at the ceremony, the winners of the 2016 Minnesota Book Awards are:

Award for Children’s Literature, sponsored by Books for Africa:
Michael Hall – Red: A Crayon’s Story –
published by Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins Publishers
Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. This funny, heartwarming, colorful picture book about finding the courage to be true to your inner self can be read on multiple levels, and it offers something for everyone! Hall is also the author and illustrator of My Heart Is Like a Zoo, winner of the 2011 Minnesota Book Award for Children’s Literature as well as four other critically-acclaimed books for children.

Award for General Nonfiction, sponsored by The Waterbury Group at Morgan Stanley:
Ryan Berg – No House to Call My Home: Love, Family and Other Transgressions published by Nation Books/Perseus Books Group
In this lyrical debut, Ryan Berg immerses readers in the gritty, dangerous, and shockingly under-reported world of homeless LGBTQ teens in New York. Ryan Berg is a Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging Writers Fellow and received the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Nonfiction Literature.

Award for Genre Fiction, sponsored by Macalester College:
Ellen Hart – The Grave Soul – published by Minotaur Books
Restaurateur and private investigator Jane Lawless is pulled into a family mystery with long-reaching consequences in Hart’s 23rd book in the series. Hart is a multiple Minnesota Book Award winner and author of thirty crime novels in two different series. For the past sixteen years, she has also taught “An Introduction to Writing the Modern Mystery” through the The Loft Literary Center.

Award for Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by Kevin and Greta Warren:
Karen Babine – Water and What We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life – published by University of Minnesota Press*
In essays that travel from the wildness of Lake Superior to the order of an apple orchard, Babine searches out the stories that water has written on human consciousness and traces an ethic of place, a way to understand the essence of inhabiting a place deeply rooted in personal stories. Her essays have been published in numerous literary magazines including North Dakota Quarterly, River Teeth, and Sycamore Review. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies.

Award for Minnesota, sponsored by Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota:
Larry Millett – Minnesota Modern: Architecture and Life at Midcentury – published by University of Minnesota Press*
Millett lends his expert eye to this guide through the life and architectural styles of Minnesota at midcentury. Richly illustrated, this book is an exploration of the post-World War II architectural style that swept the nation from 1945 through the mid-1960s. Millett is the author of many books, including Minnesota’s Own: Preserving Our Grand Homes and Once There Were Castles: Lost Mansions and Estates of the Twin Cities. 

Award for Novel & Short Story, sponsored by Education Minnesota:
Charles Baxter – There’s Something I Want You to Do – published by Pantheon Books/Random House
“There’s something I want you to do.” This request—sometimes simple, sometimes not—forms the basis for the ten interrelated stories that comprise this latest penetrating and prophetic collection from an author who has been repeatedly praised as a master of the form. Baxter is the author of fifteen books of fiction, creative nonfiction, and essays. This is his second Minnesota Book Award.

Award for Poetry, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc.:
Ray Gonzalez – Beautiful Wall – published by BOA Editions, Ltd.
In his newest collection, Gonzalez takes readers on a profound journey through the deserts of the Southwest where the ever-changing natural landscape and an aggressive border culture rewrite intolerance and ethnocentric thought into human history. He is the author of fifteen books of poetry and the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southwest Border Regional Library Association. This is his third Minnesota Book Award.

Award for Young People’s Literature, sponsored by The Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University:
Shannon Gibney – See No Color
– published by Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group*
Alex Kirtridge has always been a star baseball player, just like her dad, and she’s always known she was adopted. But when, at 16, Alex discovers hidden letters from her biological father and Reggie, the first black guy to like her, starts hanging around, Alex is confronted with questions about who she really is. Gibney is a writer, teacher and activist in Minneapolis. This is her first book.

At the Book Awards gala on April 16, the ninth annual Book Artist Award was presented to Wendy Fernstrum, for a new piece entitled One is the Holiest Number (#2). The award, sponsored by Lerner Publishing Group and presented with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA), recognizes book artists for excellence of a new artistic work and demonstrated proficiency and quality in the book arts, as well as an ongoing commitment and significant contributions to Minnesota’s book arts community. Her award-winning piece is a meditation on the paradox of one: how each of us as an individual is distinctly one, yet simultaneously part of a unified whole, as one. Fernstrum has investigated this theme for several years, creating work that explores the “in-between space” where identity is constantly shifting and certainties lose form.

The biennial Hognander Minnesota History Award was presented to William D. Green for his book Degrees of Freedom: The Origins of Civil Rights in Minnesota, 1865-1912. Sponsored by the Hognander Family Foundation, the award recognizes the author of the most outstanding scholarly work related to Minnesota history published during the preceding two years. Spanning the half-century after the Civil War, Degrees of Freedom draws a rare picture of black experience in a northern state and of the nature of black discontent and action within a predominantly white, ostensibly progressive society. Green reveals little-known historical characters among the black men and women who moved to Minnesota following the Fifteenth Amendment and delves into the delicate balance of power between black activists and our progressive white society.

Finally, Jim Sitter received the previously announced Kay Sexton Award. For more than thirty years, Sitter has been one of the most prolific and effective arts leaders in the state. He embodies the spirit of the Kay Sexton Award with an extraordinary array of accomplishments, helping to make the literary and book arts community in Minnesota what it is today. The Award is sponsored by St. Catherine University’s Master of Library and Information Science program.

Books written by a Minnesotan and first published in 2015 were eligible for the 28th annual Minnesota Book Awards. A total of 252 books were nominated for awards this year, and 32 books were selected as finalists. The winners were chosen by panels of judges from around the state. Nominations for next year’s Awards will open in August, 2016. Explore this website for more information about the Minnesota Book Awards and the Minnesota Center for the Book. Click here for more information on the Book Awards process, and here for a list of finalists and winners since 1988.

The Book Awards ceremony will be broadcast in the coming weeks on Saint Paul Neighborhood Network and TPT-MN Channel. Watch the website for updates on air dates.

The 28th annual Minnesota Book Awards is a project of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, with the Saint Paul Public Library and the City of Saint Paul. Major funding for the Book Awards was provided by Brainfuse, the Huss Foundation, the Katherine B. Andersen Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Pohlad Family Foundation and Saint Paul’s Cultural STAR program. Statewide outreach partners include the Council of Regional Public Library System Administrators (CRPLSA), the Loft Literary Center, Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA), and Saint Paul Almanac. Media sponsors include Minnesota Public Radio, Saint Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN), the Star Tribune and TPT.

*indicates a Minnesota-based publisher