The 22nd annual Oregon Book awards were held last Sunday, November 9, fittingly concluding the fourth annual Wordstock book festival—which welcomed authors from around the country—with a celebration of the finest writing to come out of our own state. Past award winners have included Barry Lopez, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Chuck Palahniuk, to drop just a few names—if you're looking for a winter reading list, this ain't a bad place to start.
The award for best children's book went to A Day with No Crayons, by Elizabeth Rusch, while the Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature saw a tie between Sara Ryan's The Rules for Hearts, and Linda Zuckerman's A Taste for Rabbit. "Our culture isn't one that encourages moral introspection," Zuckerman noted in her acceptance speech, explaining that she likes to write about animal characters because she finds it a good way to convey ideas without being preachy or didactic—and because it "minimizes the risk of libel."
Steven W. Bender gave the night's briefest yet most affecting speech, upon receiving the nonfiction award for One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, César Chávez, and the Dream of Dignity. He cried in sorrow for our country many times while writing the book, he said, and "cried in joy last Tuesday for what America must become."
The award for creative nonfiction went to Lauren Kessler for Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer's, an intriguing-sounding work that challenges the idea that memory loss implies the loss of personality or joy in living. Kessler thanked the readers in the room, noting that "sometimes it feels like there are a lot of writers out there, and not a lot of readers."
Penelope Scambly Schott took home the poetry award for A Is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth, a narrative poem about that famed scourge of the Puritan power structure, while Steve Patterson waltzed off with the Angus Bowmer Award for Drama for his Lost Wavelengths. And finally, Ehud Havazelet accepted the Ken Kesey Award for fiction for his Bearing the Body with a graceful speech in which he explained that all of his characters are seeking the thing that he himself has already found in Oregon: home.