April 10, 2017, SAINT PAUL, MN – The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library is pleased to announce the winners of the 29th annual Minnesota Book Awards. In addition to winners in nine categories, The Friends presented the Book Artist and the Kay Sexton Awards to previously announced honorees—respectively, Steven McCarthy and Lou Bellamy. The Minnesota Book Awards are presented this year by sponsor Education Minnesota.
Close to 900 people attended the award ceremony at InterContinental Hotel on Saturday, April 8, emceed by Tom Weber, host of “MPR News with Tom Weber” and author of 100 Things to Do in the Twin Cities Before You Die. Announced at the ceremony, the winners of the 2017 Minnesota Book Awards are:
Award for Children’s Literature, sponsored by Books for Africa:
J.J. Austrian – Worm Loves Worm – illustrated by Mike Curato, published by Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers
When a worm meets a special worm and they fall in love, you know what happens next. They get married! This irresistible picture book is a celebration of love in all its splendid forms. J.J. Austrian is a graduate of Hamline University’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults program. This is his first picture book.
Award for General Nonfiction, sponsored by the College of Saint Benedict Literary Arts Institute and Saint John’s University:
Shawn Otto – The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It – published by Milkweed Editions*
Otto’s provocative book investigates the reasons for why and how evidence-based politics are in decline and authoritarian politics are once again on the rise, and offers a vision, an argument, and compelling solutions to bring us to our collective senses, before it’s too late. Otto is an award-winning science advocate, educator, and speaker, and a previous Minnesota Book Award winner.
Award for Genre Fiction, sponsored by Macalester College:
Allen Eskens – The Heavens May Fall – published by Seventh Street Books/Prometheus Books
Eskens revisits characters from The Life We Bury in a mystery full of twists and turns, vividly told from two opposing perspectives. Eskens is also the author of The Life We Bury, a Minnesota Book Award finalist, and The Guise of Another. He was a practicing criminal defense attorney for 25 years.
Award for Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by Faegre Baker Daniels:
Kao Kalia Yang – The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father – published by Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company
Yang retells the life of her father, Bee Yang, the song poet – a Hmong refugee in Minnesota, driven from the mountains of Laos by America’s Secret War. Yang is also the author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, which was a finalist for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award and the Asian American Literary Award, and received the 2009 Minnesota Book Award.
Award for Middle Grade Literature, sponsored by Education Minnesota:
Brian Farrey – The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse – published by Algonquin Young Readers/Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
In this thrilling modern fairytale, Farrey has created an exciting new world where friendship is more powerful than fate and the most important thing is to question everything. Brian Farrey is the author of The Vengekeep Prophecies series and the Stonewall Honor Book and Minnesota Book Award-winner With or Without You.
Award for Minnesota Nonfiction, sponsored by Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota:
Cheri Register – The Big Marsh: The Story of a Lost Landscape – published by Minnesota Historical Society Press*
After stumbling upon her great-grandfather’s scathing critique of the draining of southern Minnesota wetlands, Register uncovers the stories of life on the Big Marsh and of the “connivers” who plotted its end: the Minneapolis land developer, his local fixer, an Illinois banker, and the lovelorn local lawyer who did their footwork. Register is also the author of Packinghouse Daughter, which won a Minnesota Book Award and an American Book Award.
Award for Novel & Short Story, sponsored by Fitzgerald in Saint Paul:
Peter Geye – Wintering – published by Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House
When elderly, demented Harry Eide escapes his sickbed and vanishes into the forbidding, northernmost wilderness that surrounds the town of Gunflint, Minnesota, he instantly changes the Eide family, and many other lives, forever. Geye has created an epic tale – a love story spanning 60 years, generations’ worth of feuds, and secrets withheld and revealed. Geye is also the author of the novels Safe from the Sea and Lighthouse Road.
Award for Poetry, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc.:
Sun Yung Shin – Unbearable Splendor – published by Coffee House Press*
Who is guest, and who is host? Adoption, Antigone, zombies, clones, and minotaurs – all are building blocks, forming and reforming our ideas in Shin’s groundbreaking new collection. Shin is also the author of poetry collections Rough, and Savage and Skirt Full of Black, which won an Asian American Literary Award and was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award. She is the editor of the anthology A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota.
Award for Young Adult Literature, sponsored by Brainfuse:
Lara Avery – The Memory Book – published by Poppy/Little, Brown and Company
Told in letters to herself, the Future Sam, this heartfelt, funny, and bittersweet novel chronicles both the path of a high school valedictorian’s degenerative disease and the major events and little details of her life over the summer that was supposed to be pre-college. Avery is the author of A Million Miles Away and Anything But Ordinary. She lives in Minneapolis, where she is a contributor at Revolver, and at work on her next novel.
Also at the Book Awards ceremony, the tenth annual Book Artist Award was presented to Steven McCarthy, for his “Wee Go Library” project – a mobile collection of 22 altered books found in Little Free Libraries throughout the Twin Cities. 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. McCarthy is a professor of graphic design at the University of Minnesota.
Lou Bellamy received the previously announced Kay Sexton Award. For more than four decades, Lou Bellamy has been a champion of African American literature, bringing to light works by African American playwrights, enabling artists to find their voice, and inspiring understanding of the vital role these stories play in our community and history. The Award is sponsored by St. Catherine University.
Books written by a Minnesotan and first published in 2016 were eligible for the 29th annual Minnesota Book Awards. A total of 242 books were submitted this year, and 36 books were selected as finalists. The winners were chosen by panels of judges from around the state. Submissions for next year’s awards will open in August, 2017. For more information on the Book Awards process, and a list of finalists and winners since 1988, visit www.thefriends.org/mnba.
The Book Awards ceremony will be broadcast in the weeks to come on Saint Paul Neighborhood Network and TPT-MN Channel. Watch the website for updates on air dates.
The 29th annual Minnesota Book Awards is a year-long outreach program of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. Major funding for the Book Awards was provided by Education Minnesota, the Harlan Boss Foundation for the Arts, the Katherine B. Andersen Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation, and the McKnight Foundation. Statewide outreach partners include The Loft Literary Center, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and Minnesota State Arts Board. Media sponsors include Minnesota Public Radio and the Star Tribune.
*Indicates a Minnesota-based publisher