The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association has announced six winners of their 2020 Book Awards, including Ted Chiang, author of “Story of Your Life,” the novella adapted into the 2016 Oscar-nominated film “Arrival.”
A committee of nine booksellers from independent bookstores in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Montana selected the winners from a pool of more than 350 qualifying titles written by authors currently residing in the Pacific Northwest. This announcement marks the 57th year PNBA has honored Seattle-area Pacific Northwest authors, and past winners include Chuck Palahniuk, Cheryl Strayed, Sherman Alexie, Nancy Pearl and Pulitzer Prize-winner Anthony Doerr.
After releasing a 12-book shortlist in November, the committee has selected these winners:
“Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Bellevue). The celebrated science-fiction writer’s second collection is made up of nine stories that speculate on the ways new technologies augment human relationships to animals, time, memory and free will. A previous winner of Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards, Chiang’s “Exhalation” was also named one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2019. Chiang’s previous collection, “Stories of Your Life and Others,” was published in 2002.
“The Cassandra” by Sharma Shields (Spokane). Drawn equally from mythology and history, Shields’ novel centers on Mildred Groves, a secretary at southeastern Washington’s now-defunct Hanford Research Center during World War II. Groves, like the Greek figure Cassandra, is tormented by prophetic visions about the destructive potential of Hanford’s top-secret product that her superiors disregard.
“The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story” by Aaron Bobrow-Strain (Walla Walla). Whitman College politics professor Bobrow-Strain tracks the harrowing life of Aida Hernandez (a pseudonym), a young, undocumented immigrant who was brought to the United States as a child and became a mother at age 16. Described by the author as something between “journalism and ethnography, with a dash of oral history and biography,” Bobrow-Strain’s book is a nuanced account of a flawed heroine whose mistakes are amplified in a punitive immigration system.
“Is, Is Not” by Tess Gallagher (Port Angeles). The prolific author of 11 books of poetry and multiple works of short fiction, Gallagher’s newest collection is a meditation on transition, stillness, what carries on after death and what is “beyond language.” Dedicated to her late husband, author Raymond Carver, and her longtime partner, the painter Josie Gray, who passed away in 2017, “Is, Is Not” reflects on Gallagher’s connection to “two northwests”: Port Angeles and the west of Ireland.
“Queen of the Sea” by Dylan Meconis (Portland). Meconis presents an alternate history of the exile of Queen Elizabeth I in this middle-grade graphic novel. After Queen Eleanor is banished to a convent on a remote island by her sister, she develops a friendship with young Margaret, and together, they uncover royal secrets about the mysterious place they inhabit.
“My Heart” by Corinna Luyken (Olympia). In heavy pencil marks, sponge-painted yellows and subtle rhymes, Luyken’s “My Heart” is a book that helps children understand the variance of their own emotional states. Luyken also made PNBA’s shortlist last year for her illustrations in “Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse,” a children’s book about imagination and empathy, with puzzles hidden in the illustrations.