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25th Annual NEMBA

Thursday, May 23, 2013


In 2013, the Library worked in collaboration with Friends of the Duluth Public Library and Lake Superior Writers to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards (NEMBA) on May 23, 2013.

The Thursday evening festivities began with a book fair and dessert reception in the Kirby Ballroom from 5-6:30 p.m. and continued with the awards presentation at 6:30. The celebration featured speaker, playwright and author Kevin Kling. "I'm delighted to be a part of an event that celebrates books and writers in the Northland, " Kling said.  He worked with Duluth illustrator Chris Monroe on the children's book "Big Little Brother".  We have such a rich artistic community," he said. "Northeast Minnesota is where it's happening."

This event was free and open to the public.

Nominations were evaluated in one of six categories: (1) Fiction, (2) Poetry, (3) General Nonfiction,  (4) Children's Literature, (5) Memoir and Creative Nonfiction or (6) Art, Photography.  Reading Teams chose a winner and honorable mention in each category. The winner in each category received a $200 cash prize. The winning author and the honorable mention in each category received a beveled glass award as well as 100 NEMBA book seals.

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

lighthouse road
Dead Ahead

Winner in Fiction:

The Lighthouse Road

written by Peter Geye
published by Unbridled Books

The Lighthouse Road is a complexly crafted work of historical fiction weaving the multigenerational stories of the four main characters into the masterfully reconstructed landscape of the Gunflint of Northeastern Minnesota. The setting is beautifully written and shapes the story and reader with its cold, wild and brooding nature. Geye’s Thea, Odd, Rebekah, and Hosea are perfectly human in their flawed and varied life experiences creating a tale that will stay with the reader long after the book is put down. A great read for anyone, but particularly engaging for those of us who can relate to the harshness that is a Minnesota winter.



the long-shining waters
The Long-Shining Waters

Honorable Mention in Fiction:

The Long-Shining Waters

by Danielle Sosin
published by Milkweed Editions

Sosin has skillfully woven together a trio of stories, creating a fabric as rich as the lake her book is named for. Threads of self-discovery connect Grey Rabbit, an Ojibwe woman from the 1620’s; Norwegians Berit and Gunnar, who fish Lake Superior in 1902, and Nora, a former bar owner on a circle tour in 2000. This is a book about place and its effect on people, and it goes a long way toward explaining the magnetic draw Lake Superior has for those who have and do live near it. The spirit of the lake is carefully drawn out through Sosin’s closely observed details of its nature, and of the intended or accidental relationships each of her characters form with it. Rich historical context and vivid prose make this a book generations will want to share. 



first day of spring

The First Day of Spring in Northern Minnesota

Winner in Poetry:

The First Day of Spring in Northern Minnesota

by Jim Johnson
published by Red Dragonfly Press

Reading this volume feels like an unhurried conversation with a lifelong resident of Minnesota’s Northwoods. Jim Johnson offers a study of his own life, his heritage, and his deeply felt surroundings of the natural world. Beneath his frank, straightforward phrasing, Johnson’s poems exude a keen sense of observation, gentle humor, and quiet wisdom. His vivid descriptions are exquisite and palpable to every sense. His stories are of people from our own backwoods and immigrant heritage. Johnson is a keeper of the old ways and a seer into how our stories of unchanged landscapes can be ours to remake, to retell, and to teach us about ourselves. This volume of Johnson’s work should be required reading for new residents of Northeastern Minnesota.



Reindeer camps

Honorable Mention in Poetry:

Reindeer Camps and Other Poems

by Barton Sutter
published by BOA Editions

Sutter chose to be more curmudgeonly than usual in this volume, with plenty of playful rhyme schemes for good measure. He uses his usual wry humor and keen insight to colorfully examine a variety of events centered around heritage, culture and politics here in the Northland. Sutter laments, surprises and grounds us in our own perplexities and hypocrisies of family, politics, and general guidelines for living that are important and worthy of consideration.




Hawk Ridge
Hawk Ridge: Minnesota's Birds of Prey

Winner in General Nonfiction

Hawk Ridge: Minnesota's Birds of Prey

by Laura Erickson, illustrated by Betsy Bowen
published by University of Minnesota Press

Rarely does a nonfiction work both educate and delight like Laura Erickson amd Betsy Bowen's Hawk Ridge.  This work addresses both children and adults with its gripping visuals -- alternating between playful and fierce.  The text manifests for the reader what is most beautiful about life in Duluth:  we are intensely grounded in our community (in institutions like Hawk Ridge) and our sense of place.  At the same time, we exist at the center of a global culture:  an international migration and an international community of ornithologists and bird enthusiasts.  Hawk Ridge:  Minnesota's Birds of Prey is a wonderful way to introduce readers to a local phenomenon, to be sure, but also to the very fabric of Northeast Minnesota life.


rez salute
Rez Salute

Honorable Mention in General Nonfiction

Rez Salute: The Real Healer Dealer

by Jim Northrup
published by Fulcrum Publishing

Rez Salute is more than one person's account of life in the Northland.  The book is wide-ranging -- crossing every cultural and intellectual border to make the complexity of life in 21st century Indian country visible to all. Northrup's reflections move from the Iraq War to an American Indian symposium in Montana to the writings of Jean Paul Sartre to the gentle act of teaching his grandson to count -- no one lens is enough to tell his story, and perhaps that is the point.  



Summer of the Wolves
Summer of the Wolves

Winner in Children's Literature

Summer of the Wolves

by Polly Carlson-Voiles
published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

The lush and vivid forests of Northern Minnesota serve as a backdrop to Polly Carlson-Voiles’ Summer of the Wolves. Combining precise scientific observations of our uniquely Minnesotan natural resources and a masterful grasp of artistic language, Carlson-Voiles paints a compelling setting for her summer vacation tale. Our heroine Nika, a strikingly-real twelve-year-old foster child, finds herself and her younger brother dropped into the care of their previously aloof uncle for an entire summer in the wilderness. Her summer is significantly brightened, however, when she is asked to care for Khan, a gangly wolf pup recently orphaned in the woods around their cabin. As Nika cares for the young wolf, she begins to learn about adapting to new circumstances, even if it means saying goodbye to those you love.



Honorable Mention in Children's Literature


by Mary Casanova
published by University of Minnesota Press

Mary Casanova crafts a novel which transcends mere language and engages its readers’ imagination, transporting them to early 1900s Rainier through strong sensory description. Inspired by true events, she weaves a story of mystery, action, romance, betrayal, and political intrigue for young adults.  Sadie Rose, a sixteen-year-old girl literally and figuratively discovers her voice while delving into her mysterious past.  Casanova will have you at the foreword.




another year
Another Year on the Gunflint Trail

Winner in Art, Photography

Another Year on the Gunflint Trail

by Nace Hagemann
published by Gunflint Trail Productions

Nace Hagemann’s artist’s diary chronicles the mundane to the sublime as we walk through the photographer’s year on the Gunflint Trail and surrounding area. Nace invites viewers into the birth of a north woods photographer. Glimpses of minute nature, often overlooked by the casual visitor in favor of the grand, clearly illustrate the photographer’s connection to Northeast Minnesota. Nace’s exploration of photography and the wilderness gives the reader another view of the flora and fauna of Northern Minnesota.  Traditional wildlife shots combine with playful experiments in light and give us the day-to-day back story of the growth of a Minnesota artist.



Words and Pictures
Words and Pictures

Honorable Mention in Art, Photography

Words and Pictures

by Louis Jenkins, images by Richard C. Johnson
published by Will o' the Wisp Books

Richard C. Johnson’s use of books, maps, cards created on handmade paper in layered collage format are reflective of his connection to the area’s paper industry that has been the lifeblood and livelihood for many residing in Northern Minnesota. Artist and poet masterfully weave words and imagery to paint their vision of the sense and sensibility that is uniquely Minnesotan.


my mother is now earth
My Mother Is Now Earth

Winner in Memoir and Creative Nonfiction

My Mother Is Now Earth

by Mark Anthony Rolo
published by Borealis Books, Minnesota Historical Society Press

Mark Rolo weaves a beautiful tapestry out of what would seem, for most observers, to be rags of a hardscrabble life.  His reminiscences of growing up poor in rural northeastern Minnesota lead us to appreciate the ties of family and the value inherent in all lives.  It is a lovely tribute to his mother, who instilled a sense of dignity in her children despite their struggles.




Two bucks and a can of gas
Two Bucks and a Can of Gas

Honorable Mention in Memoir and Creative Nonfiction

Two Bucks and a Can of Gas

by Robert R. Olson
published by North Shore Press/Northern Wilds Media

This collection of essays explores the making of a family and a home within the woods.  From her first canoe trip to chasing bears, Becca Manlove experiences the joys and heartache of choosing a life outside the city.  As the book draws you in further and further, Becca manages to draw you in to her life.  It is evident that she is a strong woman who is prepared to take on the world (and bears).




PHOTOS of this year's event coming soon!


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


Presented by the Library
416 Library Drive
Duluth, MN 55812

& Friends of the Duluth Public Library

in collaboration with The Lake Superior Writers

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