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Judge’s Comments: 2015 OBA finalists in General Nonfiction

The deadline for submitting books to the 2016 Oregon Book Awards is Friday, August 28, 2015. In the meantime, we’re sharing the judge’s comments on the 2015 finalists from each category. Remember that the 2016 OBAs include the PNCA Award for Graphic Literature, and the original publication dates and guidelines for this category are different. Click here to download guidelines for all of the upcoming awards.

Jabari Asim is an author, poet, playwright, and Associate Professor of Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson College in Boston. His books include What Obama Means . . . For Our Politics, Our Culture, Our Future, and The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why.

Here are his comments on the 2015 Oregon Book Awards finalists for the Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction.

Soil Will Save Us CoverThe Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet

by Kristin Ohlson

Ohlson impresses with a ground-level investigation of the impact of harmful farming practices on global warming. Along with informative interviews and irreverent first-person anecdotes, she skillfully employs everyday language to make scientific research accessible to any reader with an interest in how the earth works — and whether it will continue to thrive.


ladyintheDarkLady In The Dark: Iris Barry and the Art of Film

by Robert Sitton

Revelations and insights abound in Sitton’s exhaustively researched biography of Iris Barry, a tireless organizer and thinker who greatly influenced the way we think about and respond to films. Sitton has retrieved Barry from an undeserved fate (near oblivion) and returned her to the canon of America film studies, where she belongs.


INTHENAMEOFGODIn The Name Of God: The True Story of the Fight to Save Children from Faith-Healing Homicide 

by Cameron Stauth

In his eminently readable examination of this controversial issue, Stauth admirably avoids the tabloid-style sleaze and sordid hyperbole that might tempt a less seasoned reporter. He manages to balance a sensitive account of the Followers and their resistance to modern medicine with, on the other side, a committed activist who crusades against so-called religious shield laws that protect parents’ rights while denying children access to critical care.

The Thing with Feathers coverThe Thing With Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human

by Noah Strycker

Delightfully quotable, Noah Strycker’s The Thing With Feathers joins a group of popular ornithological studies that continue to shed valuable light on bird behavior. His fascination is contagious as he escorts us through mating rituals, mysteries of navigation and the complexities of pecking orders. Wittily sharing his own birding adventures involving everything from wandering owls to roadkill, Strycker, too, comes off as an odd bird, in the best possible sense.

Big Little Man:
In Search of My Asian Self  INSEARCHOFMYASIAN

by Alex Tizon

In precise, forceful prose, Alex Tizon casts an unrelenting gaze at his own experiences as a brown-skinned citizen of the United States, where conventional notions of “American” seldom differ from “white.” While chronicling his personal journey, he effectively contrasts the reality of Asian culture with stereotypes that have influenced and maligned the Asian experience. Tizon relates his findings with a reporter’s eye and a poet’s gift for the telling metaphor — and the results are consistently illuminating. Race in America remains a teeming cauldron of neuroses, much as we’d love to think otherwise. Tizon dives in headfirst and surfaces with insights that enrich us all.

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