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Laurie Hertzel is senior editor for books at the Star Tribune, where she has worked since 1996.

Louise Erdrich, three other Minnesota writers finalists for prestigious national award

Louise Erdrich. Photo by Paul Emmel.

Minnesota writers Louise Erdrich  and Kao Kalia Yang are among the finalists for this year’s National Book Critics Circle Awards, as are University of Minnesota graduates (and Minnesota-reared) Michael Tisserand and Hope Jahren. "Blackacre," published by Minneapolis’ Graywolf Press, is a finalist in poetry.

The finalists were selected on Saturday at a board meeting in New York City and the winners will be announced in mid-March. The board also named Yaa Gyasi’s novel, “Homegoing,” as winner of the John Leonard Prize, which goes to the best first book. Critic Michelle Dean, who writes for the Guardian, the New Republic and elsewhere, won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, which carries a $1,000 cash award. And Margaret Atwood—novelist, poet, essayist, futurist, and environmental activist—will receive the board’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

Kao Kalia Yang's memoir, "The Song Poet," was about the life of her father, Bee Yang. Star Tribune photo by Brian Peterson

Here is the full list of finalists, with links to Star Tribune reviews, when available:


Marion Coutts, “The Iceberg.”

Jenny Diski, “In Gratitude.”

Hope Jahren, “Lab Girl.”

Hisham Matar, “The Return.”

Kao Kalia Yang, “The Song Poet.”


Nigel Cliff, “Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story.”

Ruth Franklin, “Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life.”

Joe Jackson: “Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary.”

Michael Tisserand, “Krazy: George Herriman, a life in Black and White.” (review forthcoming this Sunday)

Frances Wilson: “Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey.”


Carol Anderson, “White Rage.”

Mark Greif, “Against Everything.”

Alice Kaplan, “Looking for the Stranger.”

Olivia Laing, “The Lonely City.”

Peter Orner, “Am I Alone Here?”


Michael Chabon, “Moonglow.”

Louise Erdrich, “LaRose.”

Adam Haslett, “Imagine Me Gone.”

Ann Patchett, “Commonwealth.”

Zadie Smith, “Swing Time.”

General nonfiction

Matthew Desmond, “Evicted.”

Ibram X. Kendi, “Stamped from the Beginning.”

Jane Mayer, “Dark Money.”

Viet Thanh Nguyen, “Nothing Ever Dies.”

John Edgar Wideman, “Writing to Save a Life.”


Ishion Hutchinson, “House of Lords and Commons.”

Tyehimba Jess, “Olio.”

Bernadette Mayer, “Works and Days.”

Robert Pinsky,”At the Foundling Hospital.”

Monica Youn, “Blackacre,” (published by Graywolf Press.)

The awards will be announced on March 16 at the New School in New York City. The NBCC is made up of about 1,000 working critics and book review editors across the country.

Lauren Groff to read at the annual Hunger Relief Benefit--and maybe you will, too

Lauren Groff. Photo by Megan Brown.

Every year since 2008, novelist Charles Baxter has hosted an annual hunger benefit at the University of Minnesota. Being a writer, he built it around readings, first with local writers---other faculty members of the U's creative writing program, such as Julie Schumacher, Patricia Hampl, Michael Dennis Browne, Madelon Sprengnether, and Peter Campion, and later with visiting writers---Robert Boswell and Jess Row.

Some people read, other people listen, and everybody who chooses to brings $5 (or more) for Second Harvest Heartland.

This year novelist Lauren Groff, author of "Fates & Furies" (a finalist for both a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award) will read. But she won’t be alone. The U is inviting U of M students to submit one page of poetry or prose on the subject of food. (A great meal? A lousy meal? A meal shared? A meal withheld?) If your manuscript is chosen, you get to read too.  

One page. If you're not a U of M student, there's probably not time to apply to the U and get accepted; the deadline to submit is 2 p.m. Jan. 24.

Do not include your name on the sheet, but staple your entry to a cover sheet with your name, the title of the piece, your email, and your status as a student. Two winners will be chosen--one from the undergrad ranks, one from the grad ranks.

You won’t know who won until the night of the reading, so you might want to dress well when you go, just in case. (Black turtleneck? Beret?) And bring your reading glasses. (Extra cool points if they're also sunglasses.)

The benefit will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 at University Hall in the MacNamara Alumni Center. Win or lose, it'll be a fine evening: You can donate to the food shelf and listen to Groff’s lush prose.

Everybody wins. 

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