2024 Minnesota Book Award Winners

2024 Annual Minnesota Book Awards Winners Announced
SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA, May 7, 2024The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library has announced the winners of the 2024 Minnesota Book Awards, presented this year by sponsor Education Minnesota. In addition to winners in nine categories, The Friends announced the Hognander Minnesota History Award winner and presented the Book Artist and Kay Sexton Awards to previously announced recipients.

The Ceremony was held at the Ordway Tuesday evening, May 7, emceed by Nur-D. The winners of the 2024 Minnesota Book Awards are: 

Award for Children’s Literature, sponsored by Red Balloon Bookshop:
Beneath by Cori Doerrfeld (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/Hachette Book Group)  

Finn is in a horrible mood, but they agree to go for a hike with Grandpa. Throughout their walk, they see strong trees with networks of roots underneath, still water with schools of fish swimming below, and an expectant bird with eggs nestled under her. Grandpa explains that sometimes beneath a person who seems like they won’t understand, is someone feeling the exact same way.

Doerrfeld is the award-winning author/illustrator of many children’s books, including The Rabbit Listened, a Minnesota Book Award winnerShe received her undergrad degree in Studio Art from St. Olaf College and her Post Baccalaureate from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Award for General Nonfiction, sponsored by Loren & Christine Danielson:
Lessons on the Road to Peace by John Noltner (self-published)  

In the fall of 2020, Noltner and his wife Karen sold their Minnesota home and hit the road to live small, listen deeply, and learn about who we are as a country. Over the next nine hundred days, they drove 93,000 miles across America and gathered hundreds of stories with one goal: in a divided world, to rediscover what connects us. 

Noltner is an award-winning photographer and author and the founder and executive director of A Peace of My Mind, a nonprofit that uses storytelling and art to bridge divides and build community. He has produced projects for national magazines, Fortune 500 companies, and non-profit organizations. 

Award for Genre Fiction, sponsored by Macalester College:
Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs (William Morrow/HarperCollins Publishers)  

Two estranged half-sisters tasked with guarding their family’s library of magical books must work together to unravel a deadly secret at the heart of their collection. In the process, they uncover a world of magic far bigger and more dangerous than they ever imagined.  

Törzs is a writer, occasional translator, and teacher at Macalester College. Her fiction has been honored with an NEA fellowship in prose, a World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction, and an O. Henry Prize. Her stories have been published in journals such as PloughsharesUncanny MagazineStrange Horizons, and American Short Fiction

Award for Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by Bradshaw Celebration of Life Centers:
Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History by Emily Strasser (University Press of Kentucky) 

In 1942, the U.S. government constructed a 60,000-acre planned community in rural Tennessee. Oak Ridge attracted more than 70,000 people eager for high-paying wartime jobs, who didn’t know it was one of three secret cities constructed by the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bomb. Strasser exposes the toxic legacy that forever polluted her family, a community, the nation, and the world. 

Strasser’s award-winning essays have appeared in PloughsharesColorado Review, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and elsewhere. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Minnesota.

Award for Middle Grade Literature, sponsored by Education Minnesota:
Shannon in the Spotlight by Kalena Miller (Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House)  

Shannon Carter never considered herself much of a theater person. As a twelve-year-old with obsessive-compulsive disorder, she depends on routine. But when she braves the audition, she discovers that center stage is the one place where she doesn’t feel anxious. As opening night approaches, Shannon feels pressure to save her friendships, manage her family, and to follow the old theater adage: The show must go on. 

Miller is also the author of The Night No One Had Sex, a Minnesota Book Award-winner. She received her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Hamline University. 

Emilie Buchwald Award for Minnesota Nonfiction, sponsored by Annette and John Whaley:
Making the Carry: The Lives of John and Tchi-Ki-Wis Linklater by Timothy Cochrane (University of Minnesota Press)*  

John Linklater, of Anishinaabeg, Cree, and Scottish ancestry, and his wife, Tchi-Ki-Wis, of the Lac La Croix First Nation, lived in the canoe and border country of Ontario and Minnesota from the 1870s until the 1930s. This illustrated biography follows the couple as they navigate great changes in their homeland along the U.S.–Canada border in the early twentieth century. 

Cochrane was superintendent at Grand Portage National Monument for 20 years, where he worked closely with the Grand Portage Band of Anishinaabeg and the tribal council. His books include A Good Boat Speaks for Itself: Isle Royale Fishermen and Their Boats and Gichi Bitobig, Grand Marais: Early Accounts of the Anishinaabeg and the North Shore Fur Trade, and Minong: The Good Place—Ojibwe and Isle Royale

Award for Novel & Short Story, sponsored by Minnesota Humanities Center:
A Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Power (Mariner Books/HarperCollins Publishers)  

From mid-century Chicago to the ancestral lands of the Dakota people, to the bleak and brutal Indian boarding schools, this is the story of three women, told in part through the stories of the dolls they carried. The novel is ultimately hopeful and shines a light on the echoing damage wrought by Indian boarding schools, and the historical massacres of Indigenous people. 

Power is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. She is the author of three previously published works of fiction, The Grass Dancer, Sacred Wilderness, and Roofwalker. Power is a graduate of Harvard and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  

Award for Poetry, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc.:
Wail Song: or wading in the water at the end of the world by Chaun Webster (Black Ocean)  

Wail Song is a multi-form long poem that offers an extended contemplation on being that lays bare how the construction of the human and the animal both rely on black abjection. Readers find themselves in the belly of the whale, and in that darkness, Wail Song asks readers how deep they are willing to wade in the water with blackness.  

Webster is a poet and graphic designer whose work is attempting to put pressure on the spatial and temporal limitations of writing. Webster’s debut book, Gentry!fication: or the scene of the crime, received the 2019 Minnesota Book Award for poetry.

Award for Young Adult Literature, sponsored by Minnesota Humanities Center:
The Girl I Am, Was, and Never Will Be by Shannon Gibney (Dutton Books/Penguin Random House)  

This novel is woven from the author’s true story of growing up as the adopted Black daughter of white parents and the fictional story of Erin Powers, the name Gibney was given at birth by the white woman who gave her up for adoption. It is a tale of two girls on different timelines occasionally bridged by a mysterious portal and their shared search for a complete picture of their origins.  

Gibney is an author and university professor. Her novel See No Color, drawn from her life as a transracial adoptee, was hailed by Kirkus as “an exceptionally accomplished debut” and by Publishers Weekly as “an unflinching look at the complexities of racial identity.” Her sophomore novel, Dream Country, received five starred reviews and earned her a second Minnesota Book Award. 

*Indicates a Minnesota-based publisher.

Special Awards

Hognander Minnesota History Award, supported by the Hognander Family Foundation:
Minescapes: Reclaiming Minnesota’s Mined Lands by Pete Kero (Minnesota Historical Society Press)* 

These stories from Minnesota’s Iron Range highlight the challenges of competing needs on lands that offer opportunities for both mining and recreation. Kero explores the record that is written on Minnesota’s mined lands – and the value systems of each generation that created, touched, and lived among these landscapes. His narratives reveal ways in which the mining industry and Iron Range residents coexist and support each other today, just as they have for more than a century. 

Kero is an environmental engineer practicing at Barr Engineering Company in Hibbing, Minnesota. For more than twenty-five years, he has consulted with public agencies, mining companies, and communities who are reclaiming and repurposing the mining landscape of the Midwest. 

Book Artist Award, sponsored by Lerner Publishing Group: Vesna Kittelson (previously announced)
Kittelson’s Letters to AmeriKa is based on a decades-long imaginary conversation between Kittelson and American culture. As described by the artist, “the dialogue has been about everything, but especially my trying to understand the meaning of democracy and (absence of) justice for immigrants.” 

Kay Sexton Award: Bao Phi (previously announced)
Phi is an author, artist, arts administrator, activist, and grassroots organizer who has been a leader in Minnesota’s literary community for more than 25 years. He has been a featured poetry performer, children’s book reader, and guest workshop leader in hundreds of different organizations in Minnesota and across the United States, from colleges to community centers, to prisons, to homeless centers, and has sat on numerous panels where he’s advocated for equity for artists from underrepresented communities. 

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

Books written by a Minnesotan and first published in 2023 were eligible for the 36th annual Minnesota Book Awards. A total of 252 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 2024. For more information on the Book Awards process, and a list of finalists and winners since 1988, visit www.thefriends.org/mnba.  

John and Ruth Huss are lead event sponsors. 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.