2020 Minnesota Book Awards Winners Announced

April 28, 2020, SAINT PAUL, MN – The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library has announced the winners of the 2020 Minnesota Book Awards, sponsored by Education Minnesota. In addition to winners in nine categories, The Friends presented the Book Artist, Hognander Minnesota History, and Kay Sexton Awards to previously announced honorees.

The Ceremony was held virtually this year in a livestream event Tuesday evening, April 28, emceed by T. Mychael Rambo, Regional Emmy Award-winning actor, vocalist, arts educator, and public speaker.

The winners of the 2020 Minnesota Book Awards are:

Award for Children’s Literature, sponsored by Books for Africa:
Kao Kalia Yang – A Map Into the World – illustrated by Seo Kim, published byCarolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group*

As the seasons change, so too does a young Hmong girl’s world. She moves into a new home with her family and encounters both birth and death. As this curious girl explores life inside her house and beyond, she collects bits of the natural world. But who are her treasures for?

Yang is a two-time Minnesota Book Award winner, author of The Latehomecomer and The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father. This is her debut book for young readers.

Award for General Nonfiction, sponsored by Brainfuse:
David Treuer – The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present – published byRiverhead Books/Penguin Random House

The long-held idea was that Native American life essentially ended with the U.S. Cavalry’s 1890 massacre of more than 150 Sioux at Wounded Knee. Melding history with reportage and memoir, Treuer uncovers a different narrative in which the depredations of each era also spawned new modes of survival, presenting a story of a resilient people’s unprecedented resourcefulness and reinvention.

Treuer is Ojibwe from the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. He is a two-time Minnesota Book Award-winning author of four novels and two previous books of nonfiction.

Award for Genre Fiction, sponsored by Macalester College:
Marlon James – Black Leopard, Red Wolf – published by Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House

The first novel in James’s Dark Star trilogy is an epic fantasy, where myth and history come together to explore what happens when a mercenary is hired to find a missing child. A mystery surrounds the boy, and Tracker, known for his skills as a hunter, comes together with an unusual group full of characters who have their own reasons for joining the search.

James is a two-time Minnesota Book Award winner and author of four novels, including the Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings.

Award for Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by Bradshaw Celebration of Life Centers:
Karen Babine – All the Wild Hungers – published byMilkweed Editions*

When her mother is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Babine can’t help but wonder: Starve a fever, feed a cold, but what do we do for cancer? And so she commits herself to preparing her mother anything she will eat. In these essays, Babine ponders the intimate connections between food, family, and illness.

Babine is the author of Water and What We Know, a Minnesota Book Award-winner, and the editor of Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies.

Award for Middle Grade Literature, sponsored by Education Minnesota:
Kate Allen – The Line Tender – published byDutton Children’s Books/Penguin Random House

When Lucy was seven, her marine-biologist mother was on a boat off the coast of Massachusetts collecting shark data, when she died suddenly. On Lucy’s twelfth birthday, the tide brings a great white and another tragedy. To survive a new wave of grief, Lucy must now look beyond what she’s lost and toward what’s yet to be discovered.

Allen grew up in Massachusetts and lives in Minneapolis with her family. This is her first novel.

Award for Minnesota Nonfiction:
Christopher P. Lehman – Slavery’s Reach: Southern Slaveholders in the North Star State – published by Minnesota Historical Society Press*

From the 1840s through the end of the Civil War, leading Minnesotans invited slaveholders and their wealth into the free territory and free state of Minnesota, enriching the area’s communities and residents. Dozens of southern slaveholders and people raised in slaveholding families purchased land and backed Minnesota businesses. The money generated by Minnesota investments flowed both ways, supporting some of the South’s largest plantations.

Lehman is a professor of ethnic studies at St. Cloud State University and the author of Slavery in the Upper Mississippi Valley, 1787-1865.

Award for Novel & Short Story, sponsored by College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University:
Sheila O’Connor – Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions – published by Rose Metal Press

V is a talented fifteen-year-old singer in 1930s Minneapolis who aspires to be a star. As a young woman, she is given a six-year state school sentence for an unplanned pregnancy. As V struggles to survive within a system only nominally committed to rescue and reform, she endures injustices that will change the course of her life and the lives of her descendants.

O’Connor is the Minnesota Book Award-winning author of six novels for adults and young people. She is a professor of Creative Writing at Hamline University and fiction editor for Water~Stone Review.

Award for Poetry, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc.:
Su Hwang – Bodega – published by Milkweed Editions*

Against the backdrop of the war on drugs and the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, a Korean girl comes of age in her parents’ bodega, offering a singular perspective on our nation of immigrants and the tensions pulsing in the margins where they live and work. This poetic debut acknowledges anguish and cherishes human life, suggesting frameworks for how we might collectively move forward with awareness and compassion.

Hwang is recipient of the inaugural Jerome Hill Fellowship in Literature and the Academy of American Poets James Wright Prize. She teaches creative writing with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop and is the co-founder of Poetry Asylum.

Award for Young Adult Literature, sponsored by United Educators Credit Union:
Naomi Kritzer – Catfishing on CatNet – published Tor Teen/Macmillan Publishing Group

Because her mother is always on the move, 16-year-old Steph hasn’t lived anywhere longer than six months. Her only constant is an online community called CatNet, whose admin is CheshireCat, a sentient AI. When a threat from Steph’s past catches up to her and CheshireCat’s existence is discovered, it’s up to Steph and her friends – both online and IRL – to save them.

Kritzer is the author of the short story Cat Pictures Please, which won the Hugo Award and the Locus Award. She lives in Saint Paul with her family.

*indicates a Minnesota-based publisher

Special Awards Presented at the Ceremony
The Book Artist Award was presented to the collaborative group responsible for creating the artist’s book My Mighty Journey: A Waterfall’s Story. My Mighty Journey, written by John Coy and illustrated by Gaylord Schanilec, is the story of the only major waterfall on the Mississippi River – and the changes it has witnessed over twelve thousand years. Anchored by internationally acclaimed artist Gaylord Schanilec, the image development, composition, printing and binding team grew over the five years of this collaboration to include artists Paul Nylander, Barbara Eijadi, Sorcha Douglas, Emily Pressprich, Greta Lapcinski, Paris Fobbe, Rayan Macalin, Kerri Mulcare, Ellen Janda, Hans Koch, Monica Edwards Larson, Diane Wilson, Ernie Whiteman, and papermaker Amanda Degener.

William D. Green received the previously announced Hognander Minnesota History Award for his book, The Children of Lincoln: White Paternalism and the Limits of Black Opportunity in Minnesota, 1860-1876. The Children of Lincoln reveals a pattern of racial paternalism in Minnesota after Emancipation, describing how even “enlightened” white Northerners, fatigued with the “Negro Problem,” would come to embrace policies that reinforced a notion of black inferiority. Green is an author, a professor of history at Augsburg College, and the former superintendent of the Minneapolis Public Schools. The award is presented bi-annually and supported by the Hognander Family Foundation.

James Lenfestey received the previously announced Kay Sexton Award. Lenfestey is the author or editor of a dozen books and multiple collections of essays and poems. He is a former college English instructor, marketing communications consultant, and editorial writer for the Star Tribune, where he won several Page One awards for excellence. He chaired the board of Minnesota Center for Book Arts, served on the capital campaign committee for Open Book and on several boards. For 15 years he chaired the Literary Witnesses poetry series at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis and taught poets and poetry on Mackinac Island, Michigan. The Award is sponsored by St. Catherine University.

Books written by a Minnesotan and first published in 2019 were eligible for the 32nd annual Minnesota Book Awards. A total of 226 books were submitted for awards 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, 2020. For more information on the Book Awards process, and a list of finalists and winners since 1988, visit www.thefriends.org/mnba.

The Star Tribune is our media sponsor. Outreach partners and supporting organizations include: Minnesota Center for Book Arts; the Ordway; Saint Paul Neighborhood Network; and Twin Cities Public Television.

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 Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony. Woven throughout the season are 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.  

About The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library:
Celebrating 75 years, The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library acts as a catalyst for libraries to strengthen and inspire their communities. An independent, nonprofit organization established in 1945, The Friends invests in the Saint Paul Public Library through fundraising, advocacy, and programming; as a result, our Library is a nationally-recognized leader in serving its community. The Friends also serves libraries across the country and internationally through its consulting services, Library Strategies, and promotes literacy, reading, and libraries statewide as the Library of Congress’s designated Minnesota Center for the Book. For more information, contact The Friends at 651-222-3242 or visit thefriends.org.