Writers

2020 Ken Kesey Award for Fiction Finalists

The following books are finalists for the 2020 Oregon Book Award in Fiction. 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


Kesha Ajọsẹ Fisher of Portland, No God like the Mother (Inkwater Press)

No God Like The Mother is fiction steeped in the reality of women who have been tasked with holding up the sky, feet firmly planted in the dirt, while the world whispers, “You’re doing it wrong.”

Kesha Ajose Fisher is an award-winning author of fiction, and lover of spicy foods. She’s married to Kevin and raising five amazing beings with him (one has four legs). One day, she hopes to live at the beach, where she’ll write, play with her rescue dogs, climb trees and sleep.

“Kesha Ajose Fisher’s No God Like the Mother is a beautiful and moving short story collection about struggle and family, loss and hope. Fisher takes us around the world and into the minds of a number of characters, brilliantly capturing what it feels like to be alive in today’s cultural climate. I think Kesha Ajose Fisher is an amazing writer.”
Judge Brandon Hobson

Kimberly King Parsons of Portland, Black Light: Stories (Vintage)

In this debut collection of darkly funny, brutally unsentimental short stories, Parsons illuminates the ache of first love, the banality of self-loathing, the myth of marriage, and the magic and inevitable disillusionment of childhood.

Kimberly King Parsons is the author of the story collection Black Light (Vintage, longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award) and a forthcoming novel (Knopf). A recipient of fellowships from Columbia University and the Sustainable Arts Foundation, she lives with her partner and sons in Portland.

“With crystal-clear prose and a strong command of language, Parsons deliveries these stories with sheer brilliance and beauty.”
Judge Brandon Hobson

Peter Rock of Portland, The Night Swimmers (Soho Press)

The Night Swimmers is a tangle of love stories and ghost stories. It involves, among other things, open water swimming, fatherhood, letters to ex- girlfriends, psychic photography and the use of isolation tanks as a means to inhabit the past.

Peter Rock is the author of ten works of fiction. He lives in Portland with his wife, daughters and various animals. He possesses several hobbies and often teaches writing at Reed College.

“As in W. G. Sebald ’s majestic novels, it’s Rock’s opening outward into the facts of the world, into all the implications of documentation and history, in the most exactingly modest voice, that make the work so compelling and hard to put down.” —Judge Rick Moody

Karen Thompson Walker of Portland, The Dreamers (Random House)

The Dreamers is the story of an ordinary college town, transformed by a mysterious illness that triggers perpetual sleep—and life-altering dreams.

Karen Thompson Walker is the author of two novels, The Dreamers and The Age of Miracles, which was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award. Her fiction has been translated into 27 languages. She teaches creative writing at the University of Oregon.

“Family and friends must learn to deal with life without those in quarantine as they all face fears, hope, their pasts and learn to navigate dreams, reality, consciousness and time in this compelling and vividly narrated novel.”—Judge Natashia Deón

Gabriel Urza of Hood River, The White Death: An Illusion (Nouvella)

The illusionist Benjamin Vaughn is fourteen years old when he dies under mysterious circumstances at the height of his short career, and in the wake of his death, the life of this brilliant yet reclusive prodigy known as “The Great Bendini” is meticulously chronicled by an unnamed narrator who encountered Vaughn when he himself was a boy.

Gabriel Urza teaches Creative Writing in the MFA Program at Portland State University and previously worked as a public defender in his hometown of Reno, Nevada. His fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Guernica, and elsewhere.

The White Death is a work of high literary purpose even as it is funny and humble, which is exactly the kind of magic that literature undertakes at its most ambitious and relevant.”
Judge Rick Moody