Valley Writers Shine at Massachusetts Books Awards

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NORTHAMPTON – A few weeks ago, Valley poet Martín Espada took home gold with a National Book Award for poetry. Now, a number of other Valley writers have taken home first place or runner-up prizes at the 2021 Massachusetts Book Awards.

The Massachusetts Center for the Book, a public-private partnership moving from Concord to Northampton, annually awards prizes in five categories: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, young adult literature, and picture books / early readers .

This year, Northampton writer and illustrator Mike Curato took first place in the Intermediate / Young Adult category for ‘Flamer,’ a semi-autobiographical graphic novel about a shy bi-racial boy, Aiden, 14. , who struggles with mixed feelings about her sexuality at summer camp.

“It’s a story that will be read and reread, and for some it will be the defining book of their teenage years,” Kirkus Reviews says of this young adult title from Curato, who is also the creator of the “Little Elliot “from children’s books, on the adventures of a polka dot elephant.

The Mass Center for the Book says that in “Flamer,” Curato shared “his own heartbreaking and triumphant personal journey with humor and compassion, offering hope to young readers struggling with self-discovery and acceptance.”

Another Northampton writer, Jennifer Rosner, won a Fiction Honors Award from the Reading Center for her first novel, “The Yellow Bird Sings,” a story of the special bond that develops between a mother and daughter as they come together. hide from the Nazis during World War II.

“Rosner’s exquisite and heartbreaking debut novel is proof that there will always be room for another WWII story,” the New York Times says of the book.

And poet Peter Gizzi, who lives in Holyoke and teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, won a poetry award for his collection “Now It’s Dark”, about which Publishers Weekly writes “The Ethereal But Confident Poems of This book provide their satisfactory calculations. without a hint of sentimentality.

A number of other Valley authors have been shortlisted for the Massachusetts Books Awards, and their titles are now on Center for the Book’s “Must-Read Lists”: “I am the Storm” by Jane Yolen and Heidi EY Stemple ; Howard Bryant’s “Complete Dissent”; and “Popol Vuh” by Ilan Stavans.

Last year two Valley writers, Ocean Vuong and Karen Skofield, won the Massachusetts Book Awards for fiction and poetry, respectively, and four others received honors for their work.

Two lawmakers from the region congratulated this year’s winners in prepared remarks. “Once again, the valley’s writing community deserves praise,” State Senator Jo Comerford said, while State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa said she was “proud and grateful to live with and represent a creative community “.

The Mass Center for Book is one of 50 book agencies – one per state – all of which are affiliated with the United States Library of Congress and charged with advancing the value of books and reading, as well as improve the reach of Massachusetts libraries.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at [email protected]


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