University of Minnesota Duluth block M and wordmark


Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards

[an error occurred while processing this directive]


28th Annual NEMBA Winners Announced!


view photos of this year's event

The 28th annual Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards were held on May 26, 2016. The Thursday evening festivities began with a book fair, wine/beer cash bar and refreshment reception in the Kirby Ballroom from 5-6:30 p.m. and continued with the awards presentation at 6:30. The celebration featured speaker, author Michael Fedo, native of Duluth and author of nine books, including locally significant books such as Zernith Cith: Stories from Duluth and The Lynchings in Duluth.

This event was free and open to the public.

Nominations were evaluated in each of six categories: (1) Fiction, (2) Poetry, (3) Nonfiction,  (4) Children's Literature, or (5) Memoir, (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.

NOTE: Nominations for the 29th NEMBA, honoring books published in 2016, will be accepted beginning November 1, 2016.


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

once were mountains
Once Were Mountains

Winner in Fiction:

Once Were Mountains

written by Victoria Richards
published by Beaver's Pond Press

Some books draw you in through their use of setting, others with their colorful characters and rich descriptions, still others by the author's mastery of the craft of storytelling. Once Were Mountains does all of these, weaving together the tale of a Finnish immigrant family on the Iron Range, a young Ojibwe Indian sent to boarding school, and the 50 years that follow, eventually bringing their lives together in this rich novel set in the early 20th century.




Honorable Mention in Fiction:

Relentless: A Striker Mystery Novel

by Marcus Bruning and Jen Wright
published by Riverfeet Press

"My lake of choice was a straight stretch of smooth interstate….My boat was a police package stealth machine wrapped in maroon...My fish finder was a Stalker dual-head radar unit…I sat poised to catch, but I didn’t entice the fish to bite. I watched," says the narrator early on. But Striker soon goes from trolling for speeders to pursuing a serial killer in this page-turner set in Duluth and written by authors with extensive experience in law enforcement and corrections.






Winner in Poetry:


by Jim Johnson
published by Red Dragonfly Press

Among the Saami/reindeer people, a yoik is sung to calm a reindeer or a baby. In Jim Johnson’s book entitled “YOIK,” the poems connect us to the plants and animals of the northwoods.





Amethyst and Agate
Amethyst and Agate

Honorable Mention in Poetry:

Amethyst and Agate: Poems of Lake Superior

edited by Jim Perlman, Deborah Cooper, Mara Hart, and Pamela Mittlefehldt
published by Holy Cow! Press

Multiple poets contributed 70 poems to the book Amethyst and Agate. Together the poems tell of the outsized impact that Lake Superior has on life around it. The poems reveal Superior’s varied moods and the poets’ understanding of the big lake.



taconite dreams
Taconite Dreams

Winner in Nonfiction

Taconite Dreams:
The Struggle to Sustain Mining on Minnesota's Iron Range, 1915-2000

by Jeffrey T. Manuel
published by University of Minnesota Press

Jeffrey T. Manuel examines how Minnesota’s Iron Range fought the dislocation that came with economic changes, technological advances, and global shifts in industrial production. Taconite Dreams demonstrates how the area fits into a larger story of national regions wrestling with deindustrialization in the twentieth century. It also offers particularly timely insights as the industry faces yet another imposing challenge to its existence due to low-cost foreign imports. A fresh look into the region’s mining history with its booms and busts and controversial efforts to sustain the industry in America’s post-industrial age may sound like a dry topic. But the author’s engaging writing style makes the story fascinating and enlightening.

North Shore
North Shore

Honorable Mention in Nonfiction

North Shore:
A Natural History of Minnesota's Superior Coast

by Chel Anderson and Adelheid Fischer
published by University of Minnesota Press

Life has found a way to inhabit Minnesota’s North Shore for more than twelve thousand years. Plants and animals have taken up residence in the region’s ancient mountains, its lakes, and its flowing rivers. These organisms come to life in North Shore, a comprehensive environmental history of one of Minnesota’s most beloved places.  Sections cover a wide range of inhabitants, habitats, history, science, and ecological observations. Readers are reminded that the natural history of this region is still being created.



wilder's ghost
Wilder's Ghost

Winner in Children's Literature

Wilder's Ghost

written by Diane Bradley
published by North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc.

On a quest to retrace the last known route her parents had traveled across Rainy Lake, Minnesota, before their deaths ten years earlier, Arla uncovers a group of criminals using the northern Minnesota woods as a headquarters for their illegal activities. Besides facing memories of the past, Arla and her kayaking friends face danger as their short day trip turns difficult. The author's descriptions of the terrain of the area and her realistic use of natural events allow readers to feel as if they are participating in the teens' adventure as they read.



Norman Loves the Lake
Norman Loves the Lake

Honorable Mention in Children's Literature

Norman Loves the Lake

by Debbie Hoven
published by Beaver's Pond Press

Using the alphabet, and the northern seasons as a guide, Norman, a black lab, experiences the best part of living on a lake in Minnesota. Young children will enjoy the rhyming as they discover what Norman is up to next. The colorful drawings have such a cozy feeling, it might even make the readers want to live on a lake, too!



Winner in Memoir

Snapshots of a Curious Poltical Journey

by Don Ness

This is not a college text on a politician’s career and the governmental machine of a fair-sized city in the Midwest. Snapshots are exactly what you will discover. The book can be picked up and read in snippets, or read as a whole. Either way, it is the story of Don Ness and Duluth both coming of age, lovingly told in pictures, essays, recollections of his personal youthful idealism, tributes to mentors, even a few love letters to and from family and friends. And all of these illustrate how he sought to respectfully serve the city he loved while maintaining the essence of who he wanted to be.



ship captains daughter
Ship Captain's Daughter

Honorable Mention in Memoir

Ship Captain's Daughter
Growing Up on the Great Lakes

by Ann M. Lewis
published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press

For Duluth residents, those first, haunting boat whistles signaling the lift bridge to open are welcome; the lakers are moving and spring is here... For author Ann Lewis, the daughter of a ship captain, the sound of ships' whistles also means that her father has left for another nine months on the water. The familiar pattern of adjusting schedules to exciting arrivals, and poignant departures, as well as summer family trips down the Great Lakes has once again begun.


The Way of Cheng-Khee Chee
The Way of Cheng-Khee Chee

Winner in Art, Photography

The Way of Cheng-Khee Chee:
Paintings 1974-2014

curated by Peter Spooner
published by The Tweed Museum of Art

Born in the 1930s in the Fujian Province of China, Cheng-Khee Chee emigrated to Minnesota in the 1960s. He worked at UMD as a librarian while learning to combine his passions of watercolor and traditional calligraphy. As a noted member of the American Watercolor Society, he developed and expressed a unique East-West synthesis in watercolor. With a primary focus on fish and their water environment, his work projects his belief that fish are a “gateway to the force of life.” The Way of Cheng-Khee shows Chee’s art and life as he transitioned from immigrant to calligrapher to watercolorist and philosopher.


Portrait of an Artist
Portrait of an Artist

Honorable Mention in Art, Photography

Portrait of an Artist

paintings by Sarah M. Brokke
published by Holy Cow! Press

Working in tandem with her subjects to “honor their spirit and celebrate the individual,” Sarah Brokke’s paintings evoke thoughtful community relationships and creative inspirations. Portrait of an Artist is the collective result of a personally placed challenge to show gratitude for the people who have helped Brokke live her chosen path as a professional studio artist—all while on an ambitious timeline of generating these thirty-six portraits in only 365 days. Using oils, acrylics, graphite, and ink, she shares her creations with us through this meditative book.



view photos of this year's event

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


Presented by UMD's Kathryn A. Martin Library
416 Library Drive
Duluth, MN 55812

with financial support from Friends of the Duluth Public Library, and our sponsors:
Lake Superior Writers, UMD Stores and TCF Bank.

crow lake superior writers       TCF logo         umd stores