21st Massachusetts Book Awards winners announced

Massachusetts Center for the Book today released the list of award winners and honorees for the 21st Annual Massachusetts Book Awards.

The Awards recognize achievement in five categories of literature written by current residents of the Commonwealth and published in 2020.

“The Massachusetts Book Awards is a perennial reminder of the enviable talent of the many writers living and working in the commonwealth,” said Sharon Shaloo, Executive Director of Massachusetts Center for the Book. “During yet another extraordinary year, the MassBooks are both timely and resonant.”

Here are the winners:

Fiction Award

The Bear - Andrew Krivak
Mass Book awaThe Inheritors - Asako Serizawa
The Yellow Bird Sings - Jennifer Rosner

Fiction Winner

The Bear (Bellevue Literary Press) by Andrew Krivak of Somerville. This fable about seeking harmony with nature by Earth’s last human inhabitants – a father and daughter – has lessons of love, loss, family and survival. 

Fiction Honors 

  • Inheritors (Doubleday/Penguin Random House) by Asako Serizawa of Brookline 
  • The Yellow Bird Sings (Flatiron Books/Macmillan) by Jennifer Rosner of Leverett

Fiction Long List

  • The Boy in the Field by Margot Livesey (Harper/HarperCollins)
  • Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel by Julian K. Jarboe (Lethe)
  • Fabrications by Pamela Painter (Johns Hopkins UP)
  • Impersonation by Heidi Pitlor (Algonquin Books)
  • Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston (Tor/Macmillan)
  • Monogamy by Sue Miller (Harper/HarperCollins)
  • Popol Vuh by Ilan Stavans (Restless Books)
  • The Resisters by Gish Jen (Knopf/Penguin Random House)
  • Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin (Celadon Books/Macmillan)
  • Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman (Ecco/HarperCollins)
  • Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow/HarperCollins)

Non-Fiction Award

How to Make a Slave -Jerald Walker
Cross of Snow - Nicholas A Basbanes
What Can a Body Do - Sara Hendren

Non-Fiction Winner

How to Make a Slave and Other Essays (Ohio State UP) by Jerald Walker of Hingham. This collection of powerful essays about growing up, parenting and writing as a Black man in America deftly combines humor and anger in the author’s personal and cultural observations.

Non-Fiction Honors 

  • Cross of Snow (Knopf/Penguin Random House) by Nicholas A. Basbanes of North Grafton 
  • What Can a Body Do? (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House) by Sara Hendren of Cambridge

Non-Fiction Long List

  • Bright Precious Thing by Gail Caldwell (Random House/Penguin Random House)
  • Demagogue by Larry Tye (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Finding Sanctuary by Barry Van Dusen (Mass Audubon)
  • Full Dissidence by Howard Bryant (Beacon)
  • A Furious Sky by Eric Jay Dolin (Liveright/Norton)
  • Is Rape a Crime? by Michelle Bowdler (Flatiron Books/Macmillan)
  • Money for Nothing by Thomas Levenson (Random House/Penguin Random House)
  • The Power Worshippers by Katherine Stewart (Bloomsbury)
  • Say I’m Dead by E. Dolores Johnson (Lawrence Hill Books/Chicago Review)
  • The Smallest Lights in the Universe by Sara Seager (Crown/Penguin Random House)
  • Spirit Run by Noé Alvarez (Catapult Books)

Poetry Award 

When My Body Was a Clinched Fist - Enzo Silon
Now It's Dark - Peter Gizzi
Women in the Waiting Room - Kirun Kapur

Poetry Winner

When My Body Was A Clinched Fist (Black Lawrence) by Enzo Silon Surin of Swampscott. A debut collection about coming of age in New York during the 1990’s, it describes the poverty and violence of that time and place with eloquence and sensitivity.

Poetry Honors 

  • Now It’s Dark (Wesleyan UP) by Peter Gizzi of Holyoke 
  • Women in the Waiting Room (Black Lawrence) by Kirun Kapur of Amesbury

Poetry Long List

  • Between Lakes by Jeffrey Harrison (Four Way Books)
  • Field Light by Owen Lewis (Dos Madres)
  • First Generation by Krikor Der Hohannesian (Dos Madres)
  • Geode by Susan Barba (Black Sparrow/Godine)
  • Land’s End by Gail Mazur (U of Chicago P)
  • Listen by Steven Cramer (MadHat)
  • Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful by Matthew Lippman (Four Way Books)
  • On Earth Beneath Sky by Chath pierSath (Loom)
  • Petition by Joyce Peseroff (Carnegie Mellon UP)
  • Teaching While Black by Matthew E. Henry (Main Street Rag)
  • Wonder and Wrath by A.M. Juster (Paul Dry Books)

Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature Award 

Flamer - Mike Curato
The Degenerates - J Albert Mann
Trowbridge Road by Marcella Pixley


Flamer (Holt Books for Young Readers/Macmillan) by Mike Curato of Northampton. In this debut graphic novel, the author shares his own heartbreaking and triumphant personal journey with humor and compassion, offering hope for young readers struggling with self-discovery and acceptance.

Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature Honors

  • The Degenerates (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster) by J. Albert Mann of Charlestown 
  • Trowbridge Road (Candlewick) by Marcella Pixley of Westford

Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature Long List

  • Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit (Bloomsbury)
  • The Colossus of Roads by Christina Uss (Margaret Ferguson Books/Penguin Random House)
  • Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon (Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/Simon & Schuster)
  • Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (Dutton Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House)
  • Illegal by Francisco X. Stork (Scholastic)
  • The Maps of Memory by Marjorie Agosin (Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/Simon & Schuster)
  • Six Angry Girls by Adrienne Kisner (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan)
  • Sources Say by Lori Goldstein (Razorbill/Penguin Random House)
  • The Witches of Willow Cove by Josh Roberts (Owl Hollow)
  • This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books/Quarto)
  • Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles (Wednesday Books/Macmillan)

Picture Book/Early Reader Award

Seven Golden Rings - Rajani LaRocca
Zero Local - Ethan Murrow and Vita Murrow

Picture Book/Early Reader Winner

Wherever I Go (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster) by Mary Wagley Copp of Westport. This fictional story of a family in a refugee camp in Ethiopia captures the innocence and joy of childhood while portraying the courage, hardship and dreams of refugees everywhere.

Picture Book/Early Reader Honors

  • Seven Golden Rings (Lee & Low Books) by Rajani LaRocca of Concord 
  • Zero Local: Next Stop: Kindness (Candlewick) by Ethan Murrow and Vita Murrow of Jamaica Plain

Picture Book/Early Reader Long List

  • Be You! by Peter H. Reynolds (Scholastic)
  • The Bear in My Family by Maya Tatsukawa (Dial Books/Penguin Random House)
  • Cozy by Jan Brett (Putnam’s Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House)
  • Geeger the Robot Goes to School by Jarrett Lerner (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster)
  • Hound Won’t Go by Lisa Rogers (Albert Whitman)
  • How Long is Forever? by Kelly Carey (Charlesbridge)
  • I am the Storm by Jane Yolen & Heidi E.Y. Stemple (Rise x Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House)
  • A Kid of Their Own by Megan Dowd Lambert (Charlesbridge)
  • Lali’s Feather by Farhana Zia (Peachtree)
  • River Otter’s Adventure by Linda Stanek (Arbordale)
  • You’re Invited to a Moth Ball by Loree Griffin Burns (Charlesbridge)


The Judges for the 21st Annual Massachusetts Book Awards were:

  • Rachel Alexander (Peabody Institute Library, Danvers)
  • Cindy Erle (Shrewsbury Montessori School Librarian)
  • Karen Kosko (Cambridge Public Schools Librarian, ret.)
  • Amy Lewontin (Northeastern University Library)
  • Michael J. Moran (Western Mass Library Advocates, Palmer)
  • Katie Nelson (Beverly Public Library)
  • Josh Newhouse (Bourne High School Librarian/Media Specialist)
  • Molly Riportella (Walpole Public Library)
  • J. D. Scrimgeour (Salem State University)
  • Renee Wheeler (Leominster Public Library)
  • Staff and Consultants of Massachusetts Center for the Book
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