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Judge’s Comments: 2016 OBA finalists in Creative Nonfiction

The deadline for submitting books to the 2017 Oregon Book Awards is Friday, August 26, 2016. In the meantime, we’re sharing the judge’s comments on the 2016 finalists from each category. Remember that the 2017 OBAs include the Award for Drama, and the original publication dates and guidelines for this category are different. Click here to download guidelines for all of the upcoming awards.

Domingo Martinez  is the New York Times bestselling author of The Boy Kings of Texas and was a finalist for The National Book Award in 2012. The Boy Kings of Texas is a Gold Medal Winner of the Independent Publishers Book Award, a Non-Fiction Finalist for The Washington State Book Awards, and was nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Prize.

Here are his comments on the 2016 Oregon Book Awards finalists for the Sarah Winnemucca Award for Creative Nonfiction:

objects in mirror are closer than they appearObjects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear by Kate Carroll de Gutes

Kate Carroll de Gutes has written an extraordinary book with Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.  From its opening pages, the book grabs you by the collar and doesn’t let up, with its magical combinations of story and language, wit and tenderness, truths personal and universal. Bravo. This is masterful writing with sentences that linger on the mind for days after, images and stories that unfold the sweet-bitterness of loves lost and loves to come, in a reflection of true humanity. What a find: we can expect more great things from such a talented writer. Onward, Kate Carol de Gutes!

Untitled-6Children and Other Wild Animals by Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle’s collection of stories and observations through and around the eyes of his children are delightful reading. With well-crafted language, Doyle charges every encounter with the electricity of a five year-old experiencing the world for the first time through combinations of wonder, terror, bewilderment and astonishment.  A lovely book for parents both new and tired.


Untitled-2Morning Light by Barbara Drake

Ostensibly, Barbara Drake’s Morning Light is a collection of concerns, delights and issues endemic to farm living, but one can’t help but feel that there is more parable and meaning swirling around in the margins of her everyday reflections than Drake gently hints at, as if she’s winking at you through her wildflowers.  Drake’s love of her farm, her observations and descriptions of her day to day troubles can light up an ordinary moment like poetry off the page, the sort of poetry I think every human secretly longs for themselves. A lovely, tender book.

While the Gods were SleepingWhile The Gods Were Sleeping by Elizabeth Enslin

Elizabeth Enslin’s finely crafted memoir is a wonderful reminder of how some people’s hearts beat to a different time, and how powerful that pull can be. Enslin reminds us through richly unfolding anecdote and description just how magical our lives can be if we keep listening to the song in our souls, keep following the path we know to be ours. A well-written, heart-warming story of love, travels, and inclusion.


Get It While You CanGet it While You Can by Nick Jaina

Wonderfully written, witty, lyrical and playful, “Get It While You Can” is equal parts pondering and perfectly introspective. Jaina balances a lush interior life with the sort of bewildered innocence of the modern artist in constant amazement with the world around him.  A fun read with illuminating associations and surprising observations at every turn. Recommended.

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