Western MA has done a clean sweep of the Fiction category in the 20th Massachusetts Book Awards whose winners were announced this morning.

Ocean Vuong (Northampton) won the award for his debut novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous while honors went to Christopher Boucher (Northampton) for Big Giant Floating Head and Jennifer Acker (Montague) for The Limits of The World.

Another big win for Western MA was in the Poetry category where Karen Skolfield was awarded the prize for her collection of army-inspired poems,  Battledress.

There were also honors for Mo Willems (Northampton) for Because and Micha Archer for Daniel’s Good Day in the Picture Books & Early Readers category.

The winners were announced in a statement by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. They recognize achievement in five categories of literature written by current residents of the Commonwealth.

“We are honored to bring these books and their talented writers to the attention of Commonwealth residents,” said Sharon Shaloo, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Center for the Book. “We look forward to celebrating and promoting these titles virtually this Fall.”

Representative Paul McMurtry, Chair of the Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development, expressed his gratitude to writers in the State; “Thank you for playing an important role in our cultural community, especially in times of physical distancing. Thanks also for sharing your creative talent and literary works that, everyday, enrich and inspire the lives of citizens throughout the Commonwealth.”

Here is the full list of awards


Fiction Award

  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Penguin Press) by Ocean Vuong of Northampton.
    This debut novel from Vietnamese-American poet Vuong is written as a son’s letter to his single mother, addressing their relationship and immigrant experience in a tour de force coming-of-age narrative.


Nonfiction Award

Non-Fiction Titles

  • The Body Papers (Restless Books) by Grace Talusan of Medford.
    This debut memoir explores a Filipino immigrant’s battle with cancer and childhood abuse, and voices the resilience and hope of a survivor.


Poetry Award

Poetry Titles
  • Battledress: Poems (Norton) by Karen Skolfield of Amherst. A U.S. Army veteran and the current poet laureate of Northampton, Skolfield has written poems that share her experience as a female soldier, addressing physical training, mental preparation, and the effects of trauma over time.


Picture Book/Early Reader

Picture Book/Early Reader Titles
  • ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market (Versify) by Raúl the Third of Medford.
    This charming bilingual picture book takes readers to a busy border-town market, teaching them basic words in Spanish as Little Lobo delivers his wares.
  • Because (Hyperion) by Mo Willems of Northampton, with illustrations by Amber Ren
  • Daniel’s Good Day (Nancy Paulsen) by Micha Archer of Leverett

Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature

Middle Grade/ Young Adult Lit Titles
  • Shouting at the Rain (Penguin Young Readers) by Lynda Mullaly Hunt of South Yarmouth.
    Set on Cape Cod, against the backdrop of its stormy weather, the book is an adolescent tale of family and friendship, loneliness, and standing up for what is right.


You can support these writers and the literary economy in Massachusetts by visiting the Mass Center for the Book shop on bookshop.org or taking a look at the NEIBA Map to find a bookseller near you.
The Massachusetts Center for the Book is a public-private partnership, chartered as the Commonwealth affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and charged with developing, supporting and promoting cultural programming to advance the cause of books and reading in Massachusetts and throughout the nation.
Team VoW
Author: Team VoW

Valley of Writers provides resources, tools, ideas and training for new writers. We work with a writers and contributors based around the world. Our primary focus is to equip new writers with skills to help them reach new audiences and achieve their goals.

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