89Th Annual California Book Awards

I’m peter fish and i’m very pleased to serve as the chair of the commonwealth club’s 89th annual california book awards This is our 89th annual awards ceremony. And our first online ceremony Over its 89 years. The california book awards has honored many of the most important voices in american literature Among them joan didion ishmael reed amy tan hector tobar and vietnam We give awards in eight categories fiction first fiction non-fiction juvenile young adult poetry californiana and contribution to publishing For all the categories our criteria are pretty simple The winning books have to have been written here in california And published in the past year and they have to be superlatively Unforgettably good Now before we start the awards a few very heartfelt. Thanks First to commonwealth club president and ceo gloria duffy and club program director george dobbins Whose support and encouragement make these awards happen and this year special thanks to the club’s tech wizards mark Kirchner and spencer campbell who have worked wonders in moving the book awards from their usual home in the commonwealth club’s physical home On the embarcadero in san francisco to this its online home Thanks to to the late. Dr. Martha cox long-time book award juror and founder of the center for steinbeck studies in san Jose state university whose generous gift whose generous gift enables us to give cash grants to each of our award winners Finally special thanks to our book award jurors They spend months reading discussing and debating the hundreds of books that are submitted for award consideration Then they have the tough but vastly rewarding job of selecting the best of the best for these awards So many many thanks to rosalind chang christopher chen Roy, eisenhart susan frankel ted. Joya mary ellen hannibal sally kim Alden mudge, denise newman. Sarah rosenthal stephen psalm. Sarah stone and mary toffer And now on to our award-winning books Our first category is non-fiction presented by mary ellen hannibal Hi all welcome to the california book awards i’ve been a part of the jury for a long time And so this is a first for me doing it virtually I read for the non-fiction category and it’s a real treat every year my team reads about 130 books And it often feels like we’re getting a sampling of the zeitgeist. We get everything from memoir to history to biography to science this year we have some really stellar finalists all very much worth your time And these are shadow lands by anthony. Mccann the white devil’s daughters by julia flynn seiler and the And uh, those are the two finalists i’ll move right on to the gold award winner Which is the heartbeat of wounded knee by david truer? In this passionately argued and deeply researched book truer deploys history reportage and memoir to surface the history of native america and 150 years since the massacre at wounded knee and here’s david truer Breaking into a sweat somewhere here um, just a Acceptance speech I suppose in this Time of zoom. I wish we could meet in person And I wish I could accept the california book award in person. I’m so incredibly humbled and happy to receive this this award and it means a lot to me california’s been my my surrogate home for the past 10 years and it’s uh A big state with a lot of energy a lot of riders a lot of talent a lot of amazing work uh coming out of and a part of California and to win this award means so much uh to me and um

I wish we could all celebrate in person um, but at least with books You know, we can build bridges between us even if we’re not Able to meet face to face. So thank you so much for this award Thank you so much, uh for for honoring the book and for for honoring me I’m, i’m humbled and grateful. Thank you So now on to our silver award winner, uh, this is a really unique book know my name by chanel miller miller focuses on the impact of a violent attack by brock turner at stanford University and then in this book she she supersedes the constraints of that trauma in a remarkable narrative of courage and self-determination And it’s a great read chanel miller Hello commonwealth club, thank you for honoring me today. I recently moved from california To new york city where there are. No Swimming pools, even though it is so hot so it is safe to say that I already miss california Immensely, but I just want to say thank you. I wrote my memoir In a tiny little house on a little hilltop in san francisco And I think a lot about how much california Took care of me while I was Writing while I was processing grief any time I was upset I would instinctively gravitate toward water hop in my car drive to ocean beach to half moon bay And plot myself down in the sand and look out at the expanse of sea and feel that that vastness was able to Absorb, whatever grief I was feeling anytime I was writing or going through court transcripts for research and would be filled with anger. I would simply have to step outside walk beneath the eucalyptus trees inhale the mint and all the mulch and inhale the fog And be soothed by that so california made it possible for me to do the difficult and lonely work Of writing and more importantly Than the landscape is the community Because my memoir revolves around a trauma that happened in my hometown, it’s really important that I continue to have warmer memories to Rewrite the more difficult ones and so I want to thank you for reminding me that I will always be welcome At home and that I can be celebrated and that there are people Elevating me and uplifting me as I continue to Find my way in the world. So thank you so much for this award. I hope to meet you all In person and i’m sure I will be back at some point to dip my toe in the ocean because it is brutally humid here So, thank you Uh hi i’m chris chen and i’m one of the poetry jurors I think it’s often said at award ceremonies like these that it’s difficult to select winners among so many great books But this year I think the list of finalists for the category of poetry It reflects a truly astonishing range of writing published in california These collections really can’t be compared and I want to encourage readers to explore the work of all of our finalists So in red together, I think these books really give us a sense of the vibrancy of contemporary poetry And its distinctive ways of engaging with both complexly layered experiences As well as the political urgency of our moment So the finalists in the poetry category are street gloss by brent armandinger A little more red sun on the human by gillian connolly a jazz funeral for uncle tom by harmony holiday Monsters, I have been by kenji liu And magical negro by morgan Parker. So the winner of our gold medal in poetry is mag magical negro by morgan parker Uh in this book morgan parker’s poems blend rage and despair with razor sharp humor To convey the nearly overwhelming challenge of trying to free oneself from the daily double dose of racism And sexism that black women face in the united states In response to a welter of media images that seem to perpetually pre-empt a speaker’s sense of themselves These poems construct a rhetorical presence That’s so lively and barbed and funny that every turn of phrase draws blood So, uh, let’s hear from morgan parker

Hi, my name is morgan parker and I just want to say thank you to everyone at the commonwealth club and to all my readers Am so excited that magical negro is the winner of the california book award in poetry Especially because it is the first book that I finished as a resident of california I also want to say thanks for nominating my first young adult novel who put this song on I couldn’t be Prouder to be a resident of this fantastic state and i’m so grateful for all of the readers and um All the supporters that I have here at the commonwealth club and throughout the state Thank you so much. And this one is for all the blacks So the winner of our silver medal in poetry is a jazz funeral for uncle tom by harmony holiday So this book uh is by a poet who is the daughter of northern soul singer songwriter. Jimmy holliday It’s a collection that pushes the boundaries of contemporary experimental poetry It’s deeply informed by contemporary black music from bop to frank ocean And the poems in this collection enter a series of songs As portals into death grief heartbreak and overlapping histories of black life and death in america So let’s hear from harmony holiday Hi i’m harmony holiday and i’m super grateful to be here and to honor all the authors thank you to the california book awards and I’m, just going to read a short speech on my book at jazz funeral frankel, tom This book was a personal ritual and moving myself into a new subject position Truly killing my idols in search of a version of the world that doesn’t rely on them as muses. It’s Play curiosity conversation with them and myself and my friends and family reckoning and also wrecking ball And it was also unexpected The title came to me one night and then the form shortly after calm response inspired by iams and black improvised music And then I realized that the poems many of them had already written Nice without putting it together not even sure it would become a full-length collection Lessening creative arrivals and letting them exist on their own terms I had no expectations of it. It was the kind of book. I wanted to sneak in It was just for me not trying to be anything not Objectifying itself trying not to become just another item for sale by being a ritual that could Dig into the overlooked and living ritual of the jazz funeral the modes of black mourning that are also acts of celebration the way we make the privilege of soul and the endless Conversation between the living and the so-called dead when left to ourselves and not coerced into alien traditions and forms And I just wanted to celebrate to celebrate black life and so i’m grateful that I get to With this prize from the state I grew up in and in conversation with writers and readers who and who understand What i’m lamenting and celebrating and how these two registers mingle in black life and in my own. Thank you To everyone who read the book and who might read it and to everyone who made its existence in the world possible especially birds llc the publisher and samson for seeing my vision all the way through even when it changed form sometimes and Yeah, i’m just grateful. Hope everyone gets to enjoy And celebrate within the book in some of the ways that I did Also congrats especially to morgan so grateful for your book and that we get to celebrate our books together and grateful To the california book awards. Have a great night everyone. Thank you Okay, so our next categories are fiction and first fiction and they’ll be presented by peter fish It’s always really tough to choose winners out of our group of finalists And I would urge all of you Who are listening to this to to read all of our finalists because they’re all genuinely kind of um life-changing books in in many different ways So the finalists in our fiction category roam the globe from uruguay to southern california to new orleans What unites them is the way each of these books tackles some of the toughest issues of contemporary life race gender class justice in new and compelling ways the finalists are Your household pay by steph cha cantoras by carolina de robertas The other americans by leila lulami the revisioners by margaret wilkerson-sexton And the winner of our gold medal in fiction is your house will pay by steph cha

In this riveting novel a shooting in los angeles in 1991 reverberates tragically in the los angeles of today Working in the tradition of raymond chandler. James m kane and walter mosley. Steph Cha shows how the suspense novel can real reveal some of the most lacerating truths about american society Now, let’s hear from steph. Cha I’m honored to receive this year’s california book awards gold medal in fiction and i’m only sorry that I can’t express my gratitude in person I was born and raised in california i’ve been in los angeles most of my life and went to college in the bay area And I don’t expect i’ll live anywhere else I love the weather, of course But I also love the culture including the rich literary tradition of the golden state I’m, proud of my state and the authors who get it down on paper including my fellow nominees. Carolina de robertas Margaret wilkerson sexton and laila lalamy and i’ve moved and frankly kind of stunned that my book gets to hang out with so many great works by other california writers I want to thank the california commonwealth club and the judges of the california book awards for this incredible honor I’d also like to thank my agent ethan bassoff my editor zach wagman and the rest of my team at echo A huge thanks, too to my family Most of all my husband matt and a high baby to my four-month-old son leo a new californian and future reader your house will pay is a book about racism and violence protest and politics and the struggles of ordinary people to make sense of personal tragedy and large-scale social movements I started writing it in 2014 after the murder of michael brown And this summer I watched history repeat itself with the murder of george floyd I love my city my state and my country But part of that love is a desire for us to be better to live up to the promise of progress Opportunity and equality that gives us our golden reputation I’ve been ruined on my own little island Thanks to the pandemic and the newborn and I can’t wait to see people again to reunite with the world And I hope we come out kinder and stronger rather than more desperate and divided Thank you for tuning in to the book awards. And for all the support you’ve given to me and my novel I hope you’re reading well while you stay healthy and happy at home Our next category is first fiction as its name proclaims our first fiction category honors books by california authors who had not previously published a book of fiction Our five finalists show that truly gifted writers can attain mastery their first time out of the gate they are last of her name by mimi lock 99 nights in logar by jameel kocha on swift horses by shannon pufal and a prayer for travelers by ruchika tomar and home remedies by julianna wang and the winner of our gold medal in first fiction is home remedies by julianna wang Home remedies is a knockout debut a brilliantly innovative kaleidoscopic short story collection that effortlessly ranges across geography and social class from beijing to paris to manhattan’s chinatown And now here’s julianna wang Thank you very much for this huge huge honor It’s such a privilege to share this award with all the other Honorees whose books I admire so much and whose writing inspires me to push the boundaries of what literature can do I arrived in california in second grade not even knowing my abcs I can still picture los angeles from the sky from my first glimpse of it. I’m still sentimental about my first avocado My first palm tree my first afternoon spent in the local library Learning how to read before I knew how to pronounce any of the words Short stories are my first love and literature and writing them is my greatest thrill a whole life in 15 pages I will forever be in all of this form indebted to it and extremely lucky to be able to do it Thank you to the commonwealth club of california For your support of writers and for choosing my first collection this medal means so much. Thank you And the winner of our silver medal and first fiction is last of her name by mimi locke The short stories in mimilock’s collection are smart funny poignant and brutal And the novella that ends the book will stay with you for the rest of your life We welcome mimi lock

Thank you so much to the commonwealth club and to all of the jury members for this award It’s such an honor to be recognized alongside so many amazing authors I would strongly urge everyone to drop what they’re doing go over to bookshop.org and order every single book on this list and order multiple copies of authors that are Offering perspectives that are rarely given space I wrote the stories in lot of her name because I didn’t see myself in the literature that was already out there so i’d also urge folks to buy multiple copies from small presses um Who tend not to be read as widely as they deserve? These are often publishers who have spent years sometimes decades nurturing and promoting important and marginalized voices Kaya press is one of these publishers and i’m so grateful that they decided to take a chance on me and on this book Sun young. Lee my brilliant editor on this collection Thank you for wanting to understand me as a writer before you even touch the single word of the manuscript I realized how lucky I was and how rare that was And everyone else at kaya press thank you so much for all of your hard work and passion To allison sinclair publicist extraordinaire at nectar literary. Thank you for helping the book get out into the world And to my family and friends, thank you for supporting me Even when you didn’t necessarily understand what the hell it was that I was doing. Thank you for not once saying Are you sure you can be doing something else with your Time even if you were thinking it and god knows I wouldn’t blame you. Thank you for not saying it That meant a lot so thank you once again for this lovely recognition and Everyone stay safe and take care Our next categories are juvenile and young adult introduced by christopher chen Hi there, so, uh, our first category, uh is going to be juvenile literature It’s again an extraordinary range of books that include graphic novels Um as well as um, just books that are a text the finalists in the juvenile category Are a place to belong by cynthia katohata? extraordinary birds by sandy stark mcginnis guts by reyna Telgemeier stargazing, uh by jen wayne So the winner of the gold medal in juvenile, uh is a place to belong by cynthia kadahata And um, it’s a book really that focuses on a tragic period in the american Uh past and and really brings it to life. It’s a heartbreaking life, uh today, uh, and it’s a it’s a book It’s of course focused on japanese, uh internment And the struggle and challenge of navigating that reality as a child So let’s hear from cynthia uhata Hi I’m honored and humbled to be receiving this award that so many great. California writers in the past have won A place to belong is a book. That means a lot to me a few years ago in a kitchen in cudahy california I watched as an old man was dying decades earlier He and his family had been shipped to tokyo after being released from tule lake Where he had renounced his citizenship? Before he died. He said to me Everything the government did was wrong. They knew we weren’t dangerous At age 21, he’d saved the lives of his younger siblings who were also shipped to japan He had given up every dream he’d ever had in order to find a way in the devastated tokyo area To feed his family and to ensure that his younger siblings had a path forward in life He lied and he stole in japan When he regained his u.s citizenship more than a decade later He opened an azalea nursery and returned to the honest life of hard work that he’d lived before the war His death reminded me of the great scene in the movie blade runner Where a replicant feels empathy for his nemesis and decides to save his life Right before he himself dies the replicant says I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe attack ships on fire off the shoulder of orion

I watched sea beams glitter in the dark near the tanhauser gate All those moments will be lost in time like tears and rain time to die A place to belong was my attempt to prevent a particular moment in history to be lost in time like tears and rain Thank you very much for honoring the spoke So our next category is young adult, um fiction and the finalists are the voice in my head by dana l davis Who put this song on by morgan parker also nominated in the poetry category? from saints of nothing by randy rebay Frankly in love by david yoon And the winner of our gold medal in young adult is frankly in love by david young And it’s a it’s a book which combines sweet romance goofy humor and a keen anti-racist sensibility In one warm intelligent life-affirming book. So let’s uh hear from david Hi everyone i’m david yun and i’m so thrilled to be receiving the gold award In young adult literature from my novel frankly in love. Um, it’s such an honor and I need to thank first my editor jen klonsky At penguin for believing so much in this book And supporting it with the full weight of her team you guys have done an amazing job and look where we are And I also need to thank um. Josh bank. Sarah banks and joel jomeka for all their hard work and dedication And I do need to give a special. Thanks to my wife nicola yoon For believing in me when at times I didn’t quite believe in myself. Um, thank you, sweetie And frankly in love is about it started out as as a rom-com, but fake dating but then it quickly took a turn toward, uh family drama land, um dealing with issues of race and you know, immigrant generational gaps and and parents and and and those kind of issues that have been percolating in my my head and my heart for a long time and i’m, absolutely honored that um That the commonwealth club has recognized my story because it’s a very personal story for me And it’s set in california. All my books are set in california because I as a native californian i’m super proud from where i’m from Uh, I think it’s a great state in the union And uh, we’re almost like a very special unique country to ourselves. Um, and I I That that’s what make this that’s what makes this award such a special honor um because I believe that california is one of the most truly diverse and exciting and uh and and vibrant places in the world There’s no other place like it and the fact that um, you read my book and you liked it uh It makes me so proud to be california today. Um So I need to extend my my my biggest most heartfelt. Thanks to everyone at the commonwealth club For their recognition and also to all the judges who read and actually like my book. Thank you so much This means the world to me. Thank you So our final categories are california and contribution to publishing introduced by mary ellen hannibal Thanks, chris Contribution to publishing in california Are two special categories focused on unique Contributions to our understanding of this amazing state that we call home We don’t really have finalists for these categories and um And they vary very much from year to year. What what kind of books receive these awards the gold medal? for Californiana this year goes to mark ararax for the dreamt land elucidating the politics engineering and environmental impacts of agriculture on california water mark arrax produces an encyclopedic Yet personal portrait of one of the defining issues of our time Hey there i’m mark arax and i’m joining you from my house in fresno Grateful that the commonwealth club has gathered us under one tent virtual though it may be I began writing books 25 years ago to answer what I thought was a straightforward question What is this place i’m from? My search began in fresno

Where my grandparents had arrived in 1920 after a genocide? And where my father ara was born in a vineyard and where he was murdered in his nightclub in 1972 a crime that went unsolved That question of california then took me to tulare lake Or what used to be tulare lake? the biggest body of fresh water west of the mississippi where four tribes of yoguts used to fish And where these cotton barons from the south chased out by the boll weevil Came and damned the rivers and canal them and drained the lake dry This is how the plantation came west And they brought with them not just their mint juleps but their black cotton pickers And I found them 75 years later in the alkali dust I gathered more than 200 hours of their oral histories And I was fortunate to do so because they’re all gone now so much literature written in the east is concerned with Dramas that take place in bedrooms and living rooms inside heads We’re not unconcerned about such matters out west But there is a character that we have to grapple with first. And that is the land I mean we took a chunk of earth a thousand miles long from the natives and called it one state That was no little hubris I remember getting a note from my editor after you’d read the first draft of the dream plan And he wrote to me the underlying a bunch of um, a bunch of passages of the book and These are some of them The greatest concentration of natives in north america the most altered landscape in the history of man The grandest hydraulic system moving water from where it is to where it isn’t ever seen the most industrialized farm belt the world ever knew And then he asked How can one place be responsible for so many damn superlatives I wrote him back and said it’s california I want to end with a toast. I wrote a story once in a book called west of west called confessions of an armenian moonshiner And I have to confess to you that we have continued to brew our own uh, jackass liquor In a still that uh must be you know, those whereabouts must be hidden But I want to toast all of my fellow winners And thank the commonwealth club Uh for for this honor, so i’m going to grab a little shot of moonshine And it’s made from a musk a grape that has a hint of muscat called sorbet And nothing travels faster from mouth to chest than this drink. So to all my fellow award winners To the commonwealth club. Thank you so much. Cheers Cheers that was awesome Our final book tonight is for contribution to publishing This is an award We don’t give every year because it goes to a california publishing house for an innovative or otherwise Essential book project and they don’t always come around This year go award goes to one of our beloved publishers chronicle books For jim marshall show me the picture This is a remarkable Uh trove of photographs by the the world’s premier rock and roll photographer who was at the front row Had front row seats to everything from the rolling stones to jimi hendrix and even farther back into To uh, jazz roots and blues roots of of rock and roll and further on this gorgeous book of marshall’s photographs has a great text putting him in perspective and And uh elucidating his talents and it focuses. Um, its focus on rock and roll is documented from an Unprecedented perspective. So here is bridget watson payne from chronicle books to accept the award Hello I’m, bridget watson payne editorial director of art and photography publishing at chronicle books Thank you. So very much to the commonwealth club for this amazing honor We must pause first and foremost to give thanks and remembrance to jim marshall Jim was not just a rock and roll photography legend It was also a san francisco legend and chronicle books is a san francisco publisher

So for show me the picture to receive the californiana award is just fantastic We’ve had a long and rich publishing history first with jim And more recently with his estate So it was a tremendous opportunity to get to publish this The first career spanning monograph of his work Enormous kudos are due to amelia davis and all her hard work not only as the author of this book But also as the keeper of jim’s photographic legacy a role, she plays with the grace and panache that does him proud Thanks are also due to the book’s contributors Karen, grigsby bates. Michelle morgetz joel selvin and meg shiffler for lending their insightful words to this volume And the wonderful team here at chronicle books who helped make this book a reality Mirabelle corn michelle posner. Aaron thacker steve kim allison winer sarah lingo and diane levinson Together they made a book that is a tribute to jim’s work and this award is such an amazing tribute to that book Thank you very much Well, that is our wars and I will just say, you know If I had known there was going to be drinks. I would have been ready but But for now, this concludes the 89th annual california book awards ceremony Congratulations to our medal winners and to all of our finalists Thank you all for joining us in the celebration of the depth and breadth and creativity of california literature and as always happy reading Hi i’m dan ashley the evening news anchor for abc 7 news in san francisco and I hope you and your loved ones are staying Safe healthy and comfortable during these very challenging times I am also a proud board member of the commonwealth club one of our most important bay area institutions The club has been hosting wonderful events with exciting speakers and topics in the bay area for over a century In times of crisis good information and strong connections in our community are especially important And during the current covet 19 crisis, the club has really stepped up since march 6th. The club has brought you over 150 Live streamed events with speakers and panelists including past governors secretaries of state and many many more Every program includes a live chat So you and viewers all over the bay area and beyond have been able to ask these experts the questions that are on your minds every program has been neutral and unbiased in true commonwealth club style to get to the bottom of the issues that are so drastically affecting our lives The club has done all this public service despite being profoundly affected by the crisis The inability to hold events for the past two months has forced the club to cut its budget and staffing by 50 percent The remaining staff are working from home to bring the community these valuable and informative live streamed programs The club needs your support to continue its shelter at home programming please make a tax deductible donation to the club now by texting the word donate to 329-4231 that is donate to 329-4231 or visit the commonwealth club website commonwealthclub.org We need the club to be here in the months and years ahead to help inform and educate As we figure out how to get our society and our economy safely moving again Consider changes to the way we live and work as a result of this crisis and take steps to prevent a future pandemic once again, please support the commonwealth club now by texting the word donate to 329-4231 that is donate to 329-423 Or visit the website commonwealthclub.org I want to personally thank you for supporting one of our community’s truly great organizations I’ll see you on abc 7 news and at the commonwealth club stay safe You