Literary Arts presented the 2023 Oregon Book Awards at the Armory on Monday, and the results were pleasantly surprising: We saw several lesser-known names win in competition against mighty, more-established Oregon writers.

Washington Post reporter Casey Parks took home the creative nonfiction prize for Diary of a Misfit: A Memoir and a Mystery—her partial memoir, which also draws in the story of a man her grandmother knew in the 1950s named Roy Hudgins. Lauren Kessler won the nonfiction category for Free: Two Years, Six Lives, and the Long Journey Home, which follows six formerly incarcerated people as they try to rebuild their lives post-release. It was nice to see the poetry judges' embrace of the evocative homoeroticism found in Eric Tran's Mouth, Sugar, and Smoke.

Despite the powerhouse presence of Thrust by Lidia Yuknavitch and Denial by John Raymond, in the fiction competition, the Ken Kesey prize went to Sindya Bhanoo's story collection Seeking Fortune Elsewhere. While that may have been unexpected, it's easy to understand why Bhanoo's collection deserves special praise. From the first crack of, "Mr Swaminathan died suddenly"—in the opening story "Malliga Homes"—Bahnoo's sharp, quick prose pulls the reader down a luge of unexpectedly gripping everyday events. "Malliga Homes" won an O. Henry Prize in 2021, and serves as the rock upon which Bhanoo builds the portraits of women in the process of leaving or being left that comprise Seeking Fortune Elsewhere. While we think you should pick it up in its entirety, we confidently recommend taking a stroll through "Malliga Homes" in Granta, as a proof on concept.

Here's the full list of nominees, with the winners in bold:

Ken Kesey Award for Fiction

Sindya Bhanoo of Corvallis, Seeking Fortune Elsewhere: Stories (Catapult)
Cai Emmons of Eugene, Sinking Islands (Red Hen Press)
Emme Lund of Portland, The Boy with a Bird in His Chest (Atria Books)
Jon Raymond of Portland, Denial (Simon & Schuster)
Lidia Yuknavitch of Otis, Thrust (Riverhead Books)

Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry

Matthew Dickman of Portland, Husbandry (W. W. Norton & Co.)
Michele Glazer of Portland, fretwork (University of Iowa Press)
Janice Lee of Portland, Separation Anxiety (CLASH Books)
Amy Miller of Ashland, Astronauts (Beloit Poetry Journal) 
Eric Tran of Portland, Mouth, Sugar, and Smoke (Diode Editions)

Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction

Anita Hannig of Portland, The Day I Die: The Untold Story of Assisted Dying in America (Sourcebooks)
Lauren Kessler of Eugene, Free: Two Years, Six Lives, and the Long Journey Home (Sourcebooks)
Leah Sottile of Portland, When the Moon Turns to Blood (Twelve Books)
Deb Vanasse of Warrenton, Roar of the Sea: Treachery, Obsession, and Alaska’s Most Valuable Wildlife (West Margin Press)
David H. Wilson Jr. of Portland, Northern Paiutes of the Malheur: High Desert Reckoning in Oregon Country (University of Nebraska Press)

Sarah Winnemucca Award for Creative Nonfiction

Laurie Easter of Portland, All the Leavings (OSU Press)
Garrett Hongo of Eugene, The Perfect Sound: A Memoir in Stereo (Pantheon)
Lora Lafayette of Portland, Possums Run Amok: A True Tale Told Slant (Mercuria Press)
Casey Parks of Portland, Diary of a Misfit: A Memoir and a Mystery (Alfred A. Knopf)
Ann Stinson of Portland, The Ground at My Feet: Sustaining a Family and a Forest (OSU Press)

Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature 

Waka T. Brown of West Linn, Dream, Annie, Dream (HarperCollins/Quill Tree Books)
Jonathan Case of Portland, Little Monarchs (Holiday House Publishing) 
Susan Hill Long of Portland, The Care and Keeping of Freddy (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books)
Jenn Reese of Portland, Every Bird a Prince (Macmillan/Henry Holt and Co.)
Sonja Thomas of Portland, Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence (Simon & Schuster/ Aladdin)

Eloise Jarvis Mcgraw Award for Children’s Literature

Zoey Abbott of Portland, Pig and Horse and the Something Scary (Abrams/Abrams Books for Young Readers)
Cathy Camper of Portland, Arab Arab All Year Long! (Candlewick Press)
Dane Liu of Portland, Friends Are Friends, Forever (Henry Holt and Co.)
Trudy Ludwig of Portland, Brave Every Day (Alfred A. Knopf/Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Carrie Tillotson of Tigard, Counting to Bananas: A Mostly Rhyming Fruit Book (Flamingo Books/Penguin Young Readers)

Angus Bowmer Award for Drama

Sara Jean Accuardi of Portland, The Storyteller
E.M. Lewis of Monitor, Dorothy’s Dictionary  
Rich Rubin of Portland, Russian Troll
C.S. Whitcomb of Wilsonville, Acting Counsel

Literary Arts also recognized two authors for their general contributions to literary culture. Portland poet Gary Miranda (Listeners at the Breathing Place, Grace Period) received a Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award, which celebrates enrichment to Oregon's literary community. Dawn Prochovnic (Where Does a Cowboy Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?) was awarded a Walt Morey Young Readers Literary Legacy Award for enriching, in particular, young readers in Oregon.