David Mura Named 2019 Kay Sexton Award Recipient

SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA, February 14, 2019The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library announced today that David Mura, author, critic, teacher, mentor, and performance artist, is the winner of the 2019 Kay Sexton Award. Sponsored by St. Catherine University, the award is presented annually to an individual or organization in recognition of longstanding dedication and outstanding work in fostering books, reading, and literary activity in Minnesota and is part of the 2019 Minnesota Book Awards, presented this year by sponsor Education Minnesota.

David Mura has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Grinnell College and a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Vermont College. He has taught at Hamline University, Macalester College, the University of Oregon, the Stonecoast MFA program, the VONA writer’s conference, and the Loft Literary Center, where he inaugurated a special class for writers of color. He co-founded the Asian American Renaissance, an Asian American arts organization and served as its artistic director. He has served on the boards of the Center for Arts Criticism, S.A.S.E., SEED, the Jerome Foundation, the Loft, Pangea World Theater, and the Ananya Dance Theater.

Mura’s newest book, A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity and Narrative Craft in Writing, was published in 2018 and is a finalist for the 2019 Minnesota Book Awards. He is the author of two memoirs, Turning Japanese, which won the Oakland PEN Josephine Miles Book Award and was a New York Times Notable Book, and Where the Body Meets Memory. His novel, Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire, was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, the John Gardner Fiction Prize, and Virginia Commonwealth University Cabell First Novelist Award. His four books of poetry include the National Poetry Contest winner After We Lost Our WayThe Colors of Desire, which won a Carl Sandburg Literary Award, Angels for the Burning, and The Last Incantations.

With this designation, the Kay Sexton review panel honors Mura’s longstanding efforts to increase literary accessibility and audiences, and foster writers of color through his workshops, mentoring, and tireless advocacy, both here in Minnesota and around the country.

Kathryn Haddad, 2018 Kay Sexton Award recipient, praised Mura’s contributions to the literary community. “David’s vision [with the Asian American Renaissance] brought together a diaspora of local artists who had never gathered before and spawned two+ decades of creative output in theater, literature, and community arts activism…His writings and teachings on race and identity have been important in defining our Minnesota literary landscape and in exploring issues that People of Color have been tackling in Minnesota and beyond. These have defined and clarified our conversations, and helped to develop a cadre of writers and thinkers who continue to impact the literary scene locally and nationally.”

Author Alexs Pate agrees. “For the past 30 years plus David has been on a journey, a largely successful one I might add, to create a more humane life in this state for writers of color. His impact, his stamp on the literary ecology in Minnesota is incomparable at the present time and stands out to be recognized.”

Mura will be honored on Saturday, April 6, at the 2019 Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony at InterContinental Hotel Saint Paul Riverfront. Awards will be presented in nine book categories, as well as the annual Book Artist Award. Tickets are on sale now and are available here.

The Minnesota Book Awards is a year-long program of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library that fosters our statewide literary arts community. The process begins in the fall with book submissions and continues through winter with two rounds of judging. Winners are announced at the spring Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony. Woven throughout the season are various events that promote the authors and connect the world of Minnesota books – writers, artists, illustrators, publishers, editors, and more – to readers throughout the state. In recognition of this and its other statewide programs and services, the Library of Congress has recognized The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library as the state’s designated Center for the Book. For more information visit www.thefriends.org/mnba.  

The Star Tribune is our media sponsor. Outreach partners and supporting organizations include: Minnesota Center for Book Arts; University of Minnesota Libraries; and Twin Cities Public Television.