2021 Literary Awards


2021 Awards Announcements

The Literary Awards Committee of the Wisconsin Library Association annually selects outstanding books by Wisconsin-connected authors and awards the WLA Literary Award, Outstanding Books of the Year, and Notable Wisconsin Authors/Illustrators.

WLA Literary Award

This award is for the highest literary achievement by an author with a Wisconsin connection, for a work written in the previous year.

Homeland Elegies
Ayad Akhtar 

Homeland Elegies is Akhtar’s second novel, and tells the story of an American son and
his immigrant father in post 9/11 America. Homeland Elegies seamlessly blends fact
and fiction, since like the narrator in the novel, Akhtar was born in New York City and
raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Pakistan-born parents, both doctors. Akhtar and his
narrator both attended Brown University, wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and
worked in Hollywood.

The book speaks especially strongly to those of us in Wisconsin who are familiar with
many of the settings and events, from the heart-wrenching such as the 2012 shooting at
the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin that killed 6; to the more mundane, the
description of one of his father’s real estate investments, a gas station in Baraboo,
blocks from the Circus World Museum.

Notable Wisconsin Authors & Illustrators

Designed to promote greater awareness of the state’s literary heritage, the award recognizes an author’s entire body of work. This year’s Notable Authors are: 

Kimberly Blaeser (1955- )
Kimberly Blaeser is a poet, essayist, fiction writer, playwright, scholar, teacher and editor of national and international renown. Born in Billings, Montana, raised on the White Earth Reservation of the Anishinaabe community in northwestern Minnesota, received her B.A. at St. Benedict’s College and M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame; Blaeser is now full Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee and an MFA faculty member at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Over the course of her career, she has produced nine collections of poetry, several works of literary criticism, dozens of essays, many short stories and edited collections of poetry and fiction. Blaeser’s work challenges representations of Native American culture and has been called “resistance writing” evidenced most clearly by her recent work, Résister en dansant/Ikwe-niimi: Dancing Resistance (2020). Beyond the page, Blaeser has worked to connect Wisconsin residents to poetry as the 2015-2016 Wisconsin Poet Laureate. She has also worked to connect indigenous nations' poets to one another in the founding of In-Na-Po in 2020. She has also served on the editorial board of the American Indian Lives series as part of the University of Nebraska Press and for the Native American Series for the Michigan State University Press. She has also served on the boards of Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission and the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Blaeser currently divides her time between her home in Lyons Township, Wisconsin and a cabin in northern Minnesota adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Résister en dansant/Ikwe-niimi: Dancing Resistance (2020)
Copper Yearning (2019)
Apprenticed to Justice (2007)
Traces in Blood, Bone, and Stone: Contemporary Ojibwe Poetry (Editor) (2006)
Absentee Indians and Other Poems (2002)
Stories Migrating Home: A Collection of Anishinaabe Prose (Editor) (1999)
Gerald Vizenor: Writing in Oral Tradition (1996)
Trailing you: Poems (1994)

Distinguished Public Service Award, University of Wisconsin
Outstanding Woman of Color Award, University of Wisconsin
Woodland Indian Arts Initiative Grant
Artist Fellowship in Poetry, Wisconsin Arts Board
Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas (for The Museum at Red Earth)
Edna Meudt Poetry Book Award (for Copper Yearning)
Zona Gale Short Fiction Award (for Vision Confidence Score)
2015-2016 Wisconsin Poet Laureate
2020 Founding Director of In-Na-Po (Indigenous Nations Poets)
2020 Fellow of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters


Neil Gaiman (1960-)
Neil Gaiman is the author of numerous novels; short stories; comics; and screen, stage, and radio plays. He was born in the United Kingdom and has resided in Wisconsin for a number of years, beginning in 1992. Gaiman started his career as a journalist, during which time he published several short stories and works of nonfiction. His rise to fame began with his publication of the critically-acclaimed Sandman series of comics, which ran monthly from 1989 to 1996. The Sandman remains a seminal work in the media of comics and graphic novels. In 1990, Gaiman published his debut novel, Good Omens, with co-author Terry Pratchett. His first solo novel, Neverwhere, was published in 1996. Gaiman has remained a prolific writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror over the past three decades and has produced several notable works including the best-selling American Gods (2000). Many of his novels have been adapted for film, television, stage, and radio. Gaiman has won numerous prestigious awards, including multiple Hugo, Locus, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards. The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013) is a British National Book Awards Book of the Year winner.

Selected bibliography:
Good Omens (1990) (with Terry Pratchett)
Neverwhere (1996)
Stardust (1998)
Smoke and Mirrors (1998)*
American Gods (2000)
Coraline (2002) **
Anansi Boys (2005)
Fragile Things (2006)*
The Graveyard Book (2008)**
The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013)
Trigger Warning (2013)*
Norse Mythology (2017)

*Collection of short stories
**Work for young audiences

Outstanding Achievement Award

These are Wisconsin authors & illustrators recognized for outstanding achievement for books published in the previous year.

Honored Authors:

Amy Quan Barry, We Ride Upon Sticks
Melissa Faliveno, Tomboyland
Mark Rader, The Wanting Life
Kate Elizabeth Russell, My Dark Vanessa
Emma Straub, All Adults Here: A Novel
Brandon Taylor, Real Life
Steven Wright, The Coyotes of Carthage

Honored Poets:

Jan Chronister, Distanced: Poems From the Pandemic
Thomas Davis, Meditation on Ceremonies of Beginnings
Kathryn Gahl, The Velocity of Love
Amaud Jamaul Johnson, Imperial Liquor
Dasha Kelly, Life in Short
Richard M Merelman, A Door Opens
Lauren Russell, Descent
Cherene Sherard-Johnson, Grimoire
Peggy Trojan, River