Tressie McMillan Cottom, Christopher Tilghman and Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley were the big winners in the 23rd annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards announced Saturday night.
Cottom was the winner in the nonfiction category for her book, ‘Thick: And Other Essays,” Tilghman won the Emyl Jenkins Sexton Literary Award for Fiction for his book, “Thomas and Beal in the Midi,” and Kingsley won the poetry award for his book, “Colonize Me.”
The annual awards honor Virginia authors in the categories of nonfiction, fiction and poetry as well as works about a Virginia subject. The winners are selected by independent panels of judges.
The winners of the People’s Choice Awards, also announced Saturday, were “The Substitution Order” by Martin Clark in the fiction category and “Mary Ball Washington: The Untold Story of George Washington’s Mother” by Craig Shirley in the nonfiction category. Winners were chosen by online voting.
Art in Literature: The Mary Lynn Kotz Award went to Philip J. Deloria, who was honored Friday for his book, “Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract.”
Saturday’s ceremony, held virtually this year because of the pandemic, was hosted by best-selling author and award-winning filmmaker Adriana Trigiani. The evening’s featured speaker was best-selling author and U.S. presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who was honored for his contributions to American history and literature.
Cottom, a former associate professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University who now holds a position at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, was recently named a 2020 MacArthur Fellow, Judges said her “provocative and brilliant chapters hold a mirror to the soul of America in painfully honest and gloriously affirming explorations of contemporary culture.”
The other finalists for the nonfiction prize were Erik Nielson and Andrea L. Dennis for “Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America” and Mary M. Lane for “Hitler’s Last Hostages: Looted Art and the Soul of the Third Reich.”
Tilghman, a professor of English at the University of Virginia, is the author of two short-story collections and three previous novels. “Thomas and Beal in the Midi,” described by judges as “lushly written,” tells the story of an interracial American couple in a “family saga after they emigrate to escape bigotry in 1892.”
The other finalists for the fiction award were Angie Kim for “Miracle Creek” and Tara Laskowski for “One Night Gone.”
In “Colonize Me,” Kingsley, an assistant professor of English in Old Dominion University’s Master of Fine Arts program, explores the experience of living as a Native American in today’s America.
The other finalists for the poetry award were Lauren K. Alleyne for “Honeyfish” and David Huddle for “My Surly Heart.”