Before a crowd of more than 900 book lovers, publishers, authors and sponsors, the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library handed out the 28th annual Minnesota Book Awards Saturday night at a gala at Union Depot. With MPR’s Stephanie Curtis as emcee, winners in eight categories were announced, along with the year’s Book Artist, Hognander Minnesota History and Kay Sexton awardees. Four of the awards went to previous winners.
The Children’s Literature Award, sponsored by Books for Africa, went to Michael Hall for “Red: A Crayon’s Story,” about finding the courage to be true to your inner self, published by Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins. Hall won the category in 2011 for “My Heart Is Like a Zoo.”
Ryan Berg won the General Nonfiction Award, sponsored by the Waterbury Group at Morgan Stanley, for “No House to Call My Home: Love, Family and Other Transgressions,” about homeless LGBTQ teens in New York, published by Nation Books/Perseus Books Group.
Mystery writer Ellen Hart took her fourth Minnesota Book Award for Genre Fiction for “The Grave Soul,” her 23rd Ellen Lawless book. Hart is the author of 30 crime novels in two different series. The award category is sponsored by Macalester College.
Karen Babine won the Memoir & Creative Nonfiction Award, sponsored by Kevin and Greta Warren, for “Water and What We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life,” published by University of Minnesota Press. Babine’s collection of essays travels from the wildness of Lake Superior to the order of an apple orchard.
Larry Millett, a writer of architectural history and mystery fiction (including five books that put Sherlock Holmes in Minnesota), won the Minnesota Award for “Minnesota Modern: Architecture and Life at Midcentury,” a richly illustrated exploration of the post-WWII architectural style we love. University of Minnesota Press is the publisher.
Charles Baxter won the Novel & Short Story Award, sponsored by Education Minnesota, for “There’s Something I Want You to Do,” a collection of 10 interrelated stories published by Pantheon Books/Random House. Baxter won the General Non-fiction category in 2008 for “The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot.”
Ray Gonzalez won the Poetry Award, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc., for “Beautiful Wall,” a journey through the deserts of the Southwest, published by BOA Editions. Gonzalez has written 15 books of poetry; this is his third Minnesota Book Award. His earlier winners were “The Hawk Temple at Tierra Grande” (2003) and “Turtle Pictures” (2001).
Shannon Gibney won the Young People’s Literature Award, sponsored by the Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University, for “See No Color,” about a 16-year-old adoptee who faces questions about who she really is, published by Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing.
Wendy Fernstrum, William D. Green and Jim Sitter were presented with their previously announced awards. Fernstrum received the Book Artist Award, sponsored by Lerner Publishing Group and presented with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, for “One is the Holiest Number (#2),” a meditation on the paradox of one. Green accepted the biennial Hognander Minnesota History Award, sponsored by the Hognander Family Foundation, for his book “Degrees of Freedom: The Origins of Civil Rights in Minnesota, 1865-1912,” a picture of black experience in a northern state, published by University of Minnesota Press.
Jim Sitter, a Minnesota arts leader for more than 30 years and a shaper of our literary and book arts community, received the Kay Sexton Award, sponsored by St. Catherine University’s Master of Library and Information Science program.
Also announced at the gala: Starting with the 2017 Minnesota Book Awards, Young People’s Literature will be split into Middle Grade and Young Adult. So there will be nine categories instead of eight.