From the Star Tribune
Awards honor Minnesota authors
Among this year's Minnesota Book Awards winners were a beer brewer, a daughter of St. Paul and a daughter of Beijing.
By SARAH T. WILLIAMS, Star Tribune
Last update: April 13, 2008 - 12:14 AM
Judges for the 20th annual Minnesota Book Awards celebrated the state's immigrants, its teachers and scholars, its prime crime writers and, well, its beer brewers on Saturday night.
About 700 people attended the ceremonies at the Crowne Plaza Riverfront, sponsored by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library and hosted by TPT and MPR's Cathy Wurzer.
"These are not the Oscars," said Deborah Keenan, winner of the poetry award, in a nod to her fellow finalists. "Comparing one book to another is like walking in a blessed orchard."
Here are the winners in eight categories:
Children's literature: "Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat," by Lynne Jonell (Holt). A girl discovers that she and her parents are being drugged by her nasty nanny, and she and her animal friends must foil the plot. What the judges said: "Lots of fine details and great sympathetic characters -- even the mean ones."
General nonfiction: "The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot," by Charles Baxter (Graywolf). The acclaimed fiction writer and essayist explores the hidden overtones and undertones in fiction. What the judges said: "Absolutely stellar explication of texts."
Genre fiction: "Thunder Bay," by William Kent Krueger (Atria). The seventh book in the Cork O'Connor series takes the protagonist into Canada, where he tries to locate the son of his friend, an Ojibwe healer. What the judges said: "Beautiful book that resonates after reading."
Memoir and creative nonfiction: "The Florist's Daughter," by Patricia Hampl (Harcourt). The author revisits her childhood as she experiences her mother's death. What the judges said: "Eloquent, bittersweet and consistently well-written."
Minnesota: "Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota," by Doug Hoverson (University of Minnesota Press). The certified beer judge and award-winning homebrewer tells the story of the state's beer industry. What the judges said: "Combines entertaining style and attractive, high-quality design."
Novel and short story: "The Last Communist Virgin," by Wang Ping (Coffee House). A window into the rapid transformation of an ancient culture, from New York City's Chinatown to the streets of Beijing. What the judges said: "Stories are compelling and balance social, cultural as well as literary appeal."
Poetry: "Willow Room, Green Door," by Deborah Keenan (Milkweed). Three decades of the poet's work, addressing love and rage, vulnerability and authority, distraction and focus. What the judges said: "Genuine, honest and original, the poems build on one another."
Young-adult literature: "Defect," by Will Weaver (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): A boy deals with features he was born with that are terrifying to some and magical to others. What the judges said: "Memorable imagery combined with a tender-hearted view of an underrepresented voice."
Other honors: Don Leeper, founder and president of BookMobile, won the Kay Sexton Award for lifelong contributions to Minnesota's literary community; Jill Kalz won the Readers' Choice Award (by a vote of more than 7,000) for "Farmer Cap" (Picture Window), an illustrated children's tale of an eccentric farmer who likes to plant spaghetti and popsicles, and Jody Williams won the Book Artist Award for excellence throughout a body of work (showing at St. Paul Central Library, 90 W. 4th St., through April 20).
The annual awards program is a project of the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, along with the library and mayor's office. For more information on the judging process, other sponsors and a complete list of finalists and winners since 1988, go to http://www.thefriends.org/.
Sarah T. Williams is the Star Tribune books editor