Writers

2020 Sarah Winnemucca Awards for Creative Nonfiction Finalists

The following books are finalists for the 2020 Oregon Book Award in Creative Nonfiction. Each year, this program honors the state’s finest accomplishments by Oregon writers who work in genres of poetry, fiction, graphic literature, drama, literary nonfiction, and literature for young readers. We will not be hosting our 33rd Annual Oregon Book Awards Ceremony at Portland Center Stage at the Armory on June 22. However, we are excited to announce that the Oregon Book Awards will take place in a different format.

Please join us for:

“The 2020 Oregon Book Awards” 
a special from Literary Arts: The Archive Project

Monday, June 22, 2020
7:00 to 7:30 p.m.OPB Radio
 (where to listen)

All of the finalists books are available to order from Broadway Books


Beth Alvarado of Bend, Anxious Attachments (Autumn House Press)

The stunning, intimate essays in Anxious Attachments take us through the life stages of a woman living from the 1970s to the present. As she moves from adolescence into adulthood, her stories portray a broad world of experience, reflecting on class, race, and poverty in America with emotional depth and sensitivity.

Beth Alvarado is the author of Anxious Attachments, Anthropologies, and Not a Matter of Love. Jillian in the Borderlands: A Cycle of Rather Dark Tales is forthcoming in 2020. From Tucson, Arizona, she now lives in Bend, Oregon, where she is core faculty at OSU-Cascades Low Residency MFA Program.

Throughout the collection, Alvarado’s voice remains singular, calm, and clear; vulnerability is layered with humor and restraint, allowing her to explore that most treacherous terrain—love— with a gravity that inspires her readers to see their own landscapes with fresh eyes.
Judge Nishta Mehra

Debra Gwartney of Finn Rock, I am a Stranger Here Myself (University of New Mexico Press)

I Am a Stranger Here Myself is a hybrid memoir-history, a story of 19th century Western expansion and an excavation of what it means to be a modern wom- an of the West. Winner of the RiverTeeth Nonfiction Prize.

Debra Gwartney is the author of I Am a Stranger Here Myself and Live Through This. She has published nonfiction in such journals as Granta, Tin House, Prairie Schooner and The Normal School, and in the NYT Modern Love column. She teaches in the MFA Program at Pacific University.

Combining memoir with historical research, I Am a Stranger Here Myself examines the ways the past is always operating just below the surface of the present. Juxtaposing family and colonial history, Gwartney raises questions about whether it is possible — or right — to ever call a place “home.”
Judge Lacy Johnson

Rebecca Lawton of Summer Lake, The Oasis This Time: Living and Dying with Water in the West (Torrey House Press)

Lawton explores water awareness—both personally and through a science lens—and our human need for the endangered, iconic oasis.

Rebecca Lawton is a former fluvial geologist and Grand Canyon river guide who lives and works in the Oregon Outback. Her honors include a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair, Ellen Meloy Award for Desert Writers, WILLA for original softcover fiction, and the Waterston Desert Writing Prize.

“Rebecca Lawton, a fluvial geologist and former Colorado River guide, shares her love and fears for the endangered Western resource—water—in these smart, fierce essays.” —Judge Rob Spillman

Liz Prato of Portland, Volcanoes, Palm Trees, and Privilege: Essays on Hawai’i (Overcup Press)

Prato weaves Hawaiian history, pop culture, and contemporary affairs with her story of familial loss to examine her role as tourist in paradise that has been appropriated by white outsiders.

Liz Prato is also the author of Baby’s on Fire: Stories, and editor of The Night, and the Rain, and the River. She loves small presses, independent bookstores, palm trees, community, and grace.

“In Volcanoes, Palm Trees, and Privilege, Liz Prato offers a tender and candid accounting of what it means to be a white tourist in Hawai’i — how one’s presence can at once bear witness to the particular beauty of that singular environment, and can also reinforce and perpetuate the generations of violence done against the place and its people.” —Judge Lacy Johnson

Wendy Willis of Portland, These Are Strange Times, My Dear: Field Notes from the Republic (Counterpoint)

In these pointed and wide-ranging essays, Wendy Willis explores everything from personal resistance to the rise of podcasts, civic loneliness to the exploitation of personal data, public outrage to the opioid crisis–all with a poet’s gift for finding the sacred in the mundane, a hope in the dark.

Wendy Willis is the author of two books of poems and a book of essays. She often writes about the intersection of literature and civic life. Wendy is also the founding director of Oregon’s Kitchen Table in the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University.

Juggling the domestic and creative with how one fights back against the misogyny, racism, and tyranny of the Trump administration, these essays sparkle with their intelligence, pathos, humor, and hope.”
Judge Rob Spillman