31st Annual NEMBA Winners

31st Annual Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards

Thursday, May 23, 2019
Northland Country Club, Duluth, MN

The 31st annual Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards were held on May 23, 2019. The Thursday evening festivities began with a book fair, wine/beer cash bar, and refreshment reception at the lovely Northland Country Club from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and continued with the awards presentation at 6:30. The celebration's featured speaker was best-selling author Margi Preus.

This event was free and open to the public. Photos of the book fair and awards ceremony are now available to view.

Nominations were accepted in six categories: (1) Fiction, (2) Poetry, (3) Art, Photography, (4) Children's Literature, (5) Memoir, and (6) Nonfiction.Reading teams chose a winner and an honorable mention in each category except Art, Photography. With only two nominees in that category, only a winner was chosen. The winners each received a $200 cash prize. The winning author and the honorable mention received a beveled glass award as well as 100 NEMBA book seals.

NOTE: Nominations for the 32nd NEMBA, honoring books published in 2019, will be accepted beginning November 1, 2019.

Listed below are the honorable mention and winners in each category with descriptions written by the reading teams:

Book Cover for Laurentian Divide  Winner in Fiction

Laurentian Divide

by Sarah Stonich
published by University of Minnesota Press

For the residents of Hatchet Inlet, a town along the Laurentian Divide, winter isn't over until Rauri Parr emerges from the ice-bound island where he winters. As the town waits for Rauri, Alpo Lahti and Sissy Pavola prepare for their marriage and Alpo's son Pete struggles with the traumas of his past. This portrait of small-town life in the far north skillfully weaves different lives and perspectives, past and present, as Hatchet Inlet waits for spring.

Honorable Mention in Fiction  Book Cover for Beginnings   

Beginnings: The Homeward Journey of Donovan Manypenny

by Thomas D. Peacock
published by Holy Cow! Press

Donovan "Little Wolf" Manypenny is an Ojibwe from Red Cliff who was raised by a white family. He sets out on an odyssey, following his own tribe's original migration from the East Coast to the Great Lakes. Along the way, he finds his heritage. A personal tale of self-discovery and an introduction to Ojibwe culture, Beginnings is mainly told from Manypenny's point of view.

Book Cover for To Keep Him Hidden
Winner in Poetry

To Keep Him Hidden

by Ryan Vine
published by Salmon Poetry

From the first dark question to the last meditation on what infinity might be, this book invites us to explore with fearless compassion. In burly blue-collar language — truck, barn, bog, road, beer, barstool — what saves the narrator, and the reader, is the Northeastern Minnesota landscape: "the green sound the setting sun makes." Though the poet tells us, "I have no idea what form forgiveness takes" here is hope that the world we live in will circle around to love.


Honorable Mention in Poetry  Book Cover for The way she told her story 

The Way She Told Her Story

by Diane Jarvenpa
published by New Rivers Press 

Direct and persistent with familiar seasonal markers, these poems hold an acute and loving awareness of the people who came before us — what it’s like to be from elsewhere, to come, and to go, how a body feels in the spaces and seasons of Northeastern Minnesota. Here are hymns to birch, berries, rain and snow on skin, the scents and sounds of place, the “muscle slap of the wind.” Like the poems themselves, the advice is immediate and urgent: “Eat a star. Right now…

Book Cover for Hush Hush Forest  Winner in Children's Literature

Hush Hush, Forest

by Mary Casanova
illustrated by Nick Wroblewski

published by University of Minnesota Press

From the dart of a hummingbird to the felling of a tree by a beaver, and raccoons catching crayfish by the shore--this quiet tale brings the forest to life with movement and grace, just as it settles down for a long rest. Beginning and ending with a loved one reading to a child snuggled in bed--it works best as a bedtime story, to be enjoyed slowly, in preparation for sleep. Taken as a whole, it feels not just like a children's book, but a work of art.

Honorable Mention in Children's Literature  Book Cover for Where I Fly

Where I Fly: A Hockey Story

written and illustrated by K.M. Allen
published by Curious Cat Books

Outdoor hockey is a touchstone of life in Northeastern Minnesota, and this book illustrates why it continues to be one of our winter pastimes. Simple but beautiful artwork accompanies this story of a child playing hockey on a frozen lake, flying across the ice while animals watch the "game." Bonus features include information about the animals hidden in its pages, a hockey glossary, a constellation map, and a discussion of the northern night sky.

Winner in Memoir

Book Cover for Iron and Water

Iron and Water: My Life Protecting Minnesota's Environment

by Grant J. Merritt
published by University of Minnesota Press

This is a memoir of Merritt's family and individual history as well as of the natural environment of northeastern Minnesota, the exploration for and development of the mining industry and some of its effects upon the natural world and resources. There is much accurate and well-researched history in the book as well as Merritt's own philosophy as an advocate for Minnesota's environment.

Honorable Mention in Memoir  Book Cover for Sawbill, a search for place


Sawbill: A Search for Place 

by Jennifer Case
published by University of New Mexico Press

A beautifully written book, well organized and lyrical. Interesting also because, though written by Case as an adult, the Sawbill resort and regional settings have the feel of the child's view. The nostalgia is for more than the place and time, more than for family members grown older or gone: it is the search for meaning and order, with the Sawbill region of northeastern Minnesota as the setting and destination for that search.

Winner in Nonfiction


Book Cover for Gichi Bitobig, Grand Marais
Gichi Bitobig, Grand Marais: Early Accounts of the Anishinaabeg and the North Shore Fur Trade

by Timothy Cochrane
published by University of Minnesota Press

The journals of two clerks of the American Fur Company recall the complex history of the fur trade along Lake Superior's North Shore, documenting the Anishinaabeg roots and corporate origins of Grand Marais.

Honorable Mention in Nonfiction

Book Cover for Whaleback Ships and the American Steel Barge Company
Whaleback Ships and the American Steel Barge Company

by C. Roger Pellett
published by Wayne State University Press

The whaleback ship reflected the experiences of its inventor and resulted in the creation of the American Steel Barge Company. These new ships were considered revolutionary by some and their creation in the remote north was a sign of industrial accomplishment.

Winner in Art, Photography

Book Cover for Chinese-ness

by Wing Young Huie
published by Minnesota Historical Society Press

Huie explores cultural identity through story and photography, giving readers an intimate story of Hiue's life and of other American- and immigrant-Chinese individuals and families. With a collection of street, portrait, and journalism photography, we learn about who we are through the stories of others. By turning the camera outward, Huie is really showing what is inside.

winner seal  honorable mention book seal 
NEMBA Book Seals now available!

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416 Library Drive
Duluth, MN 55812

& the Friends of the Duluth Public Library