2023 Minnesota Book Awards Winners

2023 Annual Minnesota Book Awards Winners Announced
SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA, May 3, 2023The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library has announced the winners of the 2023 Minnesota Book Awards, presented this year by sponsor Education Minnesota. In addition to winners in nine categories, The Friends presented the Kay Sexton Award to the previously announced honoree.

The Ceremony was held at the Ordway Tuesday evening, May 2, emceed by Jearlyn Steele. The winners of the 2023 Minnesota Book Awards are: 

Award for Children’s Literature, sponsored by Bernadette Janisch:
So Much Snow by Kristen Schroeder; illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (Random House Studio/Penguin Random House) 

On Monday, it starts to snow. How high will it go? Follow seven forest creatures, from a tiny mouse to a giant moose, as they hunker down in a snowstorm. As the week progresses, the snow piles up – even past Moose’s antlers! 

Kristen Schroeder lived in Australia for 11 years. She returned to Minnesota with an Aussie husband, two children, and dual citizenship. She began writing for children in 2014 in between running a business and raising her kids. 

Award for General Nonfiction, sponsored by The Duchess Harris Collection:
Wilhelm’s Way: The Inspiring Story of the Iowa Chemist Who Saved The Manhattan Project by Teresa Wilhelm Waldof (Third Generation Publishing*)

This is the story of Iowa State College chemistry professor Harley Wilhelm and a small, dedicated team working to prove a controlled nuclear chain reaction was possible. With only a few grams of pure uranium in existence, the team worked through challenges and surpassed expectations.  

Teresa Wilhelm Waldof is an independent scholar and speaker on the Ames Project section of the Manhattan Project. She holds a B.A. in speech communications and an M.B.A. from the University of Minnesota.

Award for Genre Fiction, sponsored by Macalester College:
The Quarry Girls by Jess Lourey (Thomas & Mercer/Amazon Publishing) 

Best friends Heather and Brenda have a secret. Something they saw in the dark, and they’ve decided to never tell a soul. But their vow is tested when their friend disappears – the second girl to vanish in a week. Desperately searching for answers, Heather learns no one in her community is who they seem to be. But she can’t stop digging because she knows girls are in danger. She also knows she’s next.  

Jess Lourey is an Amazon Charts bestselling, Edgar, Agatha, and Lefty-nominated, ITW Thriller and Anthony award-winning author. She’s a retired professor of writing and sociology, a recipient of the Loft’s Excellence in Teaching fellowship, and a TEDx presenter. 

Award for Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by Bradshaw Celebration of Life Centers:
Seven Aunts by Staci Lola Drouillard (University of Minnesota Press*) 

In this multifaceted portrait of her aunties, Drouillard summons ways of life largely lost to history. Unfolding against a personal view of the settler invasion of the Midwest by men who logged, fished, hunted, and mined, it reveals the true heart and soul of that history: women who defied expectations and overwhelming odds to secure a place in the world for the next generation.  

Staci Lola Drouillard, a descendant of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Anishinaabe, lives and works in her hometown of Grand Marais, on the North Shore of Lake Superior. She has won the Hamlin Garland Prize in Popular History and the Northeast Minnesota Book Award for nonfiction. 

Award for Middle Grade Literature, sponsored by Education Minnesota:
The Counterclockwise Heart by Brian Farrey (Algonquin Young Readers/Workman Publishing) 

Time is running out in the empire of Rheinvelt as shadowy beasts prepare for an attack. But Prince Alphonsus has other problems, including a great secret: he has a clock where his heart should be – and it’s begun to run backwards, counting down to his unknown fate. Alphonsus and Esme, a girl from the magical order of Hierophants, must work together to save the empire, or see the destruction of everything they both love. 

Brian Farrey is the author of The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse and the Stonewall honor book With or Without You, both winners of a Minnesota Book Award. 

Emilie Buchwald Award for Minnesota Nonfiction, sponsored by Annette and John Whaley:
When Minnehaha Flowed With Whiskey: A Spirited History of the Falls by Karen E. Cooper (Minnesota Historical Society Press*) 

This is a look at the hidden history of Minnehaha Falls – featuring the colorful characters, political intrigue, and wild debauchery that flowed in and around this natural feature. Cooper takes the reader through the early development of Minneapolis with Minnehaha Falls as the central character.  

Karen E. Cooper is a photo historian and writer and has been collecting photographs and researching the history of Minnehaha Falls for thirty years. She lives in Minneapolis and gives local history tours.   

Award for Novel & Short Story, sponsored by Jeff Janisch:
The Barrens by Kurt Johnson and Ellie Johnson (Arcade Publishing/Skyhorse Publishing)

Holly and Lee decide to have a summer adventure canoeing through the uninhabited Barren Lands of subarctic Canada. But when risk-taker Holly dies after falling from a cliff, Lee, the inexperienced paddler, must continue the grueling and dangerous trip alone, to save herself and return her lover’s body to civilization. Storytelling helps Lee endure the rigors of her journey and engage her grief as she explores her relationship with Holly and chronicles her own coming-of-age. 

Kurt Johnson and his daughter Ellie began working on The Barrens after Ellie, at the age of seventeen, completed a forty-five-day canoe trip paddling four hundred-fifty miles along the Thelon River in subarctic Canada.  

Award for Poetry, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc.:
How to Communicate by John Lee Clark (W.W. Norton & Co.)

How to Communicate is a dynamic journey through language, community, and the unfolding of an identity. The poet pivots from inventive forms inspired by the Braille slate to sensuous prose poems to incisive erasures and pathbreaking translations from American Sign Language and Protactile, a language built on touch. How to Communicate embraces new linguistic possibilities and insists on the power of poetry. 

John Lee Clark is a DeafBlind poet, essayist, translator, and actor in the Protactile movement. He is a current Bush Leadership Fellow, a core member of the Protactile Language Interpreting National Education Center, and a Disability Futures Fellow. He has won the National Magazine Award and Frederick Bock Prize.  

Award for Young Adult Literature, sponsored by Expedition Credit Union:
The Complicated Calculus (and Cows) of Carl Paulsen by Gary Eldon Peter (Fitzroy Books/Regal House Publishing) 

On a struggling family dairy operation,fifteen-year-old Carl confronts his crush on Andy Olnan, a “city boy” who may or may not share his feelings. At the same time, Carl and his father clash over the future of their farm, a legacy of Carl’s late mother. Carl discovers his own resilience in the face of grief, adult-sized decisions, and unrequited love, and learns to cope with both the challenges and rewards of being different.  

Gary Eldon Peter is the author of Oranges, recipient of the Gold Medal for LGBT+ fiction in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Midwest Book Award, and finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards and the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.  

*Indicates a Minnesota-based publisher.

Special Award Presented at the Ceremony

Kay Sexton Award, Stu Abraham
Stu Abraham has been sales representative for numerous publishers in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest for over 40 years. Stu formed Abraham Associates in 1992, representing marquee New York houses like Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Henry Holt, along with many from across the country, including Chronicle Books, Candlewick, and Grove Press. In the days when these familiar publishing outfits were still independent, Stu was the key to their presence in Minnesota. He has also served as an unofficial agent, guiding many Minnesota authors in their efforts to find a publisher, work with bookstores, and build their careers.

More information can be found at www.thefriends.org/winners.

Books written by a Minnesotan and first published in 2022 were eligible for the 35th annual Minnesota Book Awards. A total of 214 books were submitted for awards this year, and 35 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 2023. 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 and Saint Paul Neighborhood Network is our outreach partner. Grant support was provided by the City of Saint Paul’s Cultural STAR program.

The Minnesota Book Awards is a year-long program of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library that connects readers and writers throughout the state with the stories of our neighbors. 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 each spring. 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 thefriends.org/mnba.  

About The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library:
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 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.