Local literary legends continue to make history, as this week two local writers and two local publishers were shortlisted for the prestigious long list of the National Book Awards, which celebrates the best literature in America and ensures that books continue to have a prominent place in American culture. Later this fall, finalists and award recipients will be announced.
The Ogress and the Orphans (Library) by a Minneapolis-based author Kelly Barnhill tells the fantastic story of generosity, kindness and community, focusing on a charming town called Stone-in-the-Glen, brave children, a kind ogress and a dragon-slaying mayor. It was recognized in the Children’s Literature category.
This isn’t Barnhill’s first literary rodeo, as the 1992 Minneapolis South High School and 1996 St. Catherine’s University graduate received writing grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Jerome Foundation in St. Paul. His book Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories (Library) was named a finalist for the 2019 Minnesota Book Awards. Revisit our feature on how the Newbery Award-winning author creates fantasy worlds from her south Minneapolis home.
fiction writer Jonathan Escoffery If I survive you (Library) vibrates with “vibrant lyricism and inimitable style, sly commentary and infectious laughter”, following a Jamaican family struggling for a better life in Miami. It chronicles the best and worst of American life, offering insight into one family’s struggles against systemic capitalism, racism, and homelessness. Escoffery—graduated in 2014 from University of Minnesota Creative Writing MFA Program in Fiction— gave writing seminars at U of M, as well as Stanford University, the Center for Fiction, Tin House, Writers in Progress, and GrubStreet — where he founded the Boston Writers of ColorGroup.
Local publishers showed they mean business when it comes to literary prowess, with three award-winning titles competing with largely New York-based presses. Jenny Xiebook of poetry The time of the break (Library), published by Graywolf Press; Allison Adelle Hedge Cokebook of poetry Look at this blue (Library), published by Coffee House Press; and Monica Ojedatranslated novel jaw bone (Library), published by Coffee House Press were nominated in the Poetry and Translated Literature categories.
And although awarded Washington Post journalists Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa don’t really have local ties, they focused on the impact of Minneapolis on one man’s life and death in their non-fiction book His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Fight for Racial Justice (Library), which made the Nonfiction list. The groundbreaking biography details how systemic racism propelled George Floyd – a man who experienced inequality in almost every aspect of his life – to spark a global movement for sweeping racial justice.
To learn more about the National Book Awards and see the full list of winners, go to nationalbook.org.