Ojibwe homesteads, shipwrecks and working class haunts provide just some of the backdrops for works honored by this year’s Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards.
Ten books were selected by NEMBA judging teams from five categories: poetry, fiction, nonfiction, memoir and children’s literature. Lake Superior Writers began the nomination process in early 2022, seeking submissions that substantially represent the history, culture, heritage or lifestyle of northeastern Minnesota.
Founded in 1988, NEMBA has honored authors, publishers, poets, photographers and illustrators for more than three decades, first by the Kathryn A. Martin Library at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and since 2021 by Lake Superior Writers. This is the first year LSW has coordinated the awards, combining books published in 2020 and 2021.
A complete list of nominees for the 2022 NEMBA Awards is posted at lakesuperiorwriters.org/nemba.
Roz & Blud (University of Arkansas Press)
Using haunting, sometimes jarring, juxtapositions of images and stories set in western Duluth and Superior, Iwen presents the working-class lives of an old man and a young woman in an interwoven narrative that echoes back and forth across the St. Louis Bay. The two protagonists never meet, yet their experiences and histories mesh in unexpected and sometimes transcendent ways against a backdrop of urban decay surrounded by the austere beauty of Lake Superior.
PA (Kindle Direct Publishing)
Trojan’s poems are simply and plainly articulated, deeply touching and satisfying in their descriptions of a man’s life and times. The collection begins “[m]y father never gets the hang of being dead,” then proceeds to demonstrate that proposition through poems based on memories of the places, people, and everyday objects that shaped him.
Carnival Lights (Modern History Press)
Stark guides the reader through generations of Indigenous history and wisdom from the stories of an extended Ojibwe family, offering a kaleidoscope of despair and solace. As the novel spirals toward its dizzying and terrible conclusion, Stark’s beautiful prose confronts vital issues.
The Wolf’s Trail: An Ojibwe Story, Told by Wolves (Holy Cow! Press)
The Wolf’s Trail takes readers from the beginning of time to the migration of both Ojibwe and the wolf from the Eastern shores of the United States to the Gitchee Gumee, then on to summer powwows, community gatherings and ceremonies. In our journey, we learn the values of the Ojibwe: wisdom, Zaagi’idiwin (love), respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth.
Duluth: An Urban Biography (Minnesota Historical Society Press)
Centered around the influence of Lake Superior, highlighted by cultural sidebars, and woven together with impactful and infamous historic incidents, Dierckins tells the layered history of Duluth. Thorough research and an approachable writing style combine for a nimble 170 year summary of the Zenith City.
Linda LeGarde Grover
Gichigami Hearts: Stories and Histories from Misaabekong (University of Minnesota Press)
This scrapbook of family stories, poetry, and Ojibwe myth, Gichigami Hearts tells the history of Misaabekong, the Point of Rocks, now known as Duluth. Readers are immersed in the Ojibwe worldview and legacy.
Lee Radzak with Curt Brown
The View from Split Rock: A Lighthouse Keeper’s Life (Minnesota Historical Society Press)
The View from Split Rock is a recollection of the author’s family’s 36 years of living and working at Split Rock Lighthouse, with stories that reveal personal, professional, and historical perspectives. The authors provide a shining example of how a unique natural landscape and its associated responsibilities can shape the character of individuals.
A Private Wilderness: The Journals of Sigurd F. Olson (University of Minnesota Press)
Fans of Sigurd Olson might be surprised his personal struggles and self-doubt in A Private Wilderness, a collection of his annotated journal entries from 1930 into the 1940s. Author David Backes provides insightful context and analysis, as well as historically significant images.
Thomas Peacock (author), Anna Granholm (illustrator)
The Fire (Black Bears and Blueberries Publishing)
The Fire recounts the experience of Elizabeth (Betty) Gurno, a Fond du Lac Reservation elder. When the Fire of 1918 approached, the Ojibwe community worked together to keep all the people and animals safe in the river, through a long, scary night. This thoughtful, detailed picture book can be enjoyed by all ages and is an important addition to the historical narrative of a major event in state history.
Sunken: Shipwrecks of Lake Superior (Lake Superior Publishing)
This engaging, comprehensive study of shipwrecks of Lake Superior is packed with information, pictures, and maps to entice young readers. Its two main characters interact with a magical map to explore many vessels that came to rest beneath the big lake. A great addition to a personal, classroom, or school library, and the perfect companion for a circle tour of Lake Superior.
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