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Patrick deWitt’s ‘The Librarianist’ wins 2024 Oregon Book Award for fiction; Erica Berry’s ‘Wolfish’ wins for creative nonfiction

Other winners during Monday's Literary Arts event included Waka T. Brown for young adult literature and poet Daniela Naomi Molnar.


Portland author Patrick deWitt’s novel “The Librarianist” was awarded the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction on Monday night during the 2024 Oregon Book Awards ceremony at Portland Center Stage’s The Armory.

Patrick deWitt, the Canadian-born author now based in Portland, won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction during Monday’s 37th annual Oregon Book Awards for his novel The Librarianist. The ceremony, hosted by poet and New York Times bestselling author Kwame Alexander, took place in Portland Center Stage’s The Armory before an enthusiastic crowd of book-loving attendees, many of whom shopped the Broadway Books lobby table before and after the event. Though deWitt wasn’t there to accept his award, six additional often-wonderstruck winners from across genres took the stage to deliver their acceptance remarks during the celebratory evening.

The night started with a slam poem recitation by 2024 Grand Poetry Champion and former San Francisco 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore. After opening notes from Andrew Proctor, Literary Arts executive director, the evening was handed over to Alexander, who gave a lighthearted and touching speech chronicling the big losses he suffered in his career, before obtaining success with awards starting in 2015. He reminded the nominees that some would win and the rest would not, though the real reward is the recognition.

Erica Berry of Portland won the Sarah Winnemucca Award for Creative Nonfiction for her celebrated Wolfish: Wolf, Self, and the Stories We Tell About Fear, a hybrid science, history, and cultural criticism journey to unveil and understand society’s myths about wolves. During her acceptance speech, Berry explained that the idea to write the book came from a frustration with how our culture talks about wolves. The myth and archetype of the Lone Wolf, she told the audience, is far from the reality of how the species operates. She concluded by saying that upon her return to Portland, she feels that she found her “wolf pack of writers.”

Waka T. Brown, recipient of the Leslie Bradshaw Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature for the second year in a row, won for The Very Unfortunate Wish of Melony Yoshimura. “This is all about second chances,” she said as she continued to thank her editor and fellow nominees. Daniela Naomi Molnar, winner of the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry for CHORUS, also thanked the people and places that helped bring the book to life, including those who inspire her, saying, “… this book is full of other people’s words.”

Author and Oregon’s ninth Poet Laureate, Kim Stafford, gave a poignant and heartfelt introduction when presenting Ellen Waterston with the Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award, saying that even renaming the award in her honor would be a fitting gesture matching the good she has done for writing in Oregon and the high desert communities. Waterston graciously thanked Stafford and others, saying that her father used to tell her, “If you paddle in milk long enough, it turns to cream,” meaning that the work itself, in the end, is its own reward.

A total of 175 books from 41 Oregon towns were submitted for the awards, presented by Literary Arts, in seven categories. The other winners for 2024 were:

Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction: Josephine Woolington of Portland, Where We Call Home: Lands, Seas, and Skies of the Pacific Northwest


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Eloise Jarvis McGraw Award for Children’s Literature: Nora Ericson of Portland, Too Early

Award for Graphic Literature: Kerilynn Wilson of Oregon City, The Faint of Heart 

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Amy Leona Havin is a poet, essayist, and arts journalist based in Portland, Oregon. She writes about language arts, dance, and film for Oregon ArtsWatch and is a staff writer with The Oregonian/OregonLive. Her work has been published in San Diego Poetry Annual, HereIn Arts Journal, Humana Obscura, The Chronicle, and others. She has been an artist-in-residence at Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, Archipelago Gallery, and Art/Lab, and was shortlisted for the Bridport International Creative Writing Prize in poetry. Havin holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornish College of the Arts and is the Artistic Director of Portland-based dance performance company, The Holding Project.


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