The finalists for the Minnesota Book Awards this year included a National Book Award winning-novelist, a New York Times bestselling writer, and a Newbery Medal-winning writer of children’s books.
But this year’s Minnesota Book Awards bypassed these venerable writers and bestowed honors on a mostly new crop of authors. The awards were presented Saturday night in downtown St. Paul at a gala event attended by nearly 900 people.
The award for novel and short story went to Peter Geye for “Wintering,” the third installment in a series of novels set on the North Shore in a fictional town called Gunflint. Finalists for that award included Louise Erdrich, who recently picked up her second National Book Critics Circle Award for “LaRose” and who won a 2012 National Book Award for “The Round House.”
J.J. Austrian won in the children’s literature category for his picture book, “Worm Loves Worm,” illustrated by Mike Curato. Austrian has an MFA from Hamline University’s Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults program. His book topped Alison McGhee’s “Tell Me a Tattoo Story.” McGhee is the co-author of the bestselling “Bink and Gollie” series, written with Kate DiCamillo and winner of a Theodor Seuss Geisel award.
And Brian Farrey won his second Minnesota Book Award for “The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse,” edging both Marion Dane Bauer, winner of the 1987 Newbery Medal, and Caren Stelson, whose book “Sachiko” was longlisted for a 2016 National Book Award.
Here’s the full list of winners:
Children’s literature: J.J. Austrian, “Worm Loves Worm,” Balzer + Bray.
General nonfiction: Shawn Otto, “The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why it Matters, What We Can Do About It,” Milkweed Editions. This is Otto’s second Minnesota Book Award.
Genre fiction: Allen Eskens, “The Heavens May Fall,” Seventh Street Books/Prometheus Books.
Memoir and creative nonfiction: Kao Kalia Yang, “The Song Poet,” Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt. Yang won two Minnesota Book Awards in 2009 for “The Latehomecomer.”
Middle-grade literature: Brian Farrey, “The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse,” Algonquin Young Readers. This is Farrey’s second Minnesota Book Award.
Minnesota nonfiction: Cheri Register, “The Big Marsh: The Story of a Lost Landscape,” Minnesota Historical Society Press. This is Register’s second Minnesota Book Award.
Novel and short story: Peter Geye, “Wintering,” Alfred A. Knopf.
Poetry: Sun Yung Shin, “Unbearable Splendor,” Coffee House Press.
Young adult literature: Lara Avery, “The Memory Book,” Poppy/Little Brown.
Also honored Saturday night were winners of two previously announced awards. Steven McCarthy won the 10th annual Book Artist Award for his Wee Go Library project, a collection of altered books taken from Little Free Libraries. And Lou Bellamy, founder of Penumbra Theatre and a longtime champion of African-American literature, received the Kay Sexton Award.