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Readers, Writers

Meet the 2023 Oregon Book Awards Judges

Literary Arts selects out-of-state judges for the Oregon Book Awards based on their extensive experience and literary expertise. Each genre has three judges, and judges select the finalists and winners in each genre.

Click here to see the list of this year’s finalists.

The 2023 Oregon Book Award winners will be announced on April 3, 2023, at the Oregon Book Awards ceremony, hosted by Luke Burbank.

Here are the 2023 Oregon Book Awards judges, listed by genre.


Judges: Zinzi Clemmons, Jonathan Dee, Shruti Swamy

Zinzi Clemmon’s novel What We Lose (Viking), was named “Debut Novel of the Year” by Vogue, and received praise from the Atlantic, the Guardian, the New York Times, The New Yorker, and others. What We Lose was a finalist for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, the California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Leonard Prize. She is a 2017 National Book Award 5 Under 35 Honoree.

Jonathan Dee is the author of seven novels, most recently The Locals. His novel The Privileges was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize . He is a former contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, a senior editor of The Paris Review, and a National Magazine Award–nominated literary critic for Harper’s. He lives in Syracuse, New York.

Shruti Swamy is the author of the story collection A House Is a Body, which was a finalist for the PEN/Bingham Prize, the LA Times First Fiction Award, and longlisted for the Story Prize. Her novel, The Archer, was longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and won the California Book Award for fiction. Her introduction to Ursula K Le Guin’s Always Coming Home is forthcoming in the novel’s 2023 reissue from Mariner.

Judges: Chen Chen, Lisa Olstein, Matthew Olzmann

Chen Chen’s second poetry collection, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency, was published by BOA Editions in 2022. His first book of essays, In Cahoots with the Rabbit God, is forthcoming from Noemi Press in 2023. His debut book of poems, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions), was longlisted for the National Book Award. He teaches for the low-residency MFA programs at New England College and Stonecoast.

Lisa Olstein is the author of seven books of poetry and prose, including the poetry collections Late Empire and Dream Apartment, both from Copper Canyon Press. Recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Lannan Writing Residency, Pushcart Prize, and Texas Book Award, she teaches in the New Writers Project and Michener Center MFA programs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Matthew Olzmann is the author of Constellation Route as well as two previous collections of poetry: Mezzanines and Contradictions in the Design. He is a recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, MacDowell, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a Senior Lecturer of Creative Writing at Dartmouth College and also teaches in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

Judges: Richard Panek, Neal Thompson, Kim Todd

Richard Panek is most recently the author of The Trouble with Gravity: Solving the Mystery Beneath Our Feet. Among the honors he has received are a Guggenheim fellowship in Science Writing and a fellowship in Literary Nonfiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts. He collaborated with Temple Grandin on The Autistic Brain: Thinking Along the Spectrum, the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Nonfiction Book of 2013. 

Neal Thompson is a journalist and the author of six highly acclaimed books, including The First KennedysA Curious ManDriving with the Devil, and the memoir Kickflip Boys. A former newspaper reporter, he has written for the New York Times, the Washington PostEsquireOutside Vanity Fair, the Wall Street Journal and more. Neal previously managed Amazon’s Best Books of the Month and the Amazon Literary Partnership grant program. He lives in Seattle with his family.

Kim Todd is the award-winning author of four books of literary nonfiction. Her most recent, Sensational: The Hidden History of America’s “Girl Stunt Reporters,” was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award and the Richard Frisbee Nonfiction Award..She is a member of the MFA faculty at the University of Minnesota and lives in Minneapolis with her family.

Judges: Sloane Crosley, Christa Parravani, Mychal Denzel Smith

Sloane Crosley is the author of The New York Times bestselling essay collections, I Was Told There’d Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number, as well as Look Alive Out There  and the bestselling novels, The Clasp and Cult Classic. She served as editor of The Best American Travel Writing She is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Her next nonfiction book, Grief Is for People, will be published in 2024.

Christa Parravani is the bestselling author of Her: A Memoir and Loved and Wanted. She has taught at Dartmouth College, UMass Amherst, SUNY Purchase, and West Virginia University, where she served as an Assistant Professor of Creative Nonfiction. 

Mychal Denzel Smith is the author of the New York Times bestseller Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching and Stakes Is High, winner of the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction. He is a Puffin Fellow at Type Media Center, and Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Hunter College. In 2014 and 2016, TheRoot.com named him one of the 100 Most Influential African-Americans in their annual The Root 100 list. Smith lives in Brooklyn.

Judges: Mary Cronk Farrell, T. P. Jagger, Alex Sanchez

Mary Cronk Farrell writes compelling history books featuring courageous unknown women who faced extraordinary danger to help shape American history. Her latest book is Close-Up On War: The Story of Pioneering Photojournalist Catherine Leroy in Vietnam.  Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific was a Booklist Editor’s Choice and Washington State Book Award Finalist.

T. P. Jagger is an elementary school teacher turned reading specialist turned writer, and he is the author of the Hide and GEEK series from Random House Children’s Books. He is not a professional magician, although he can make both pizza and chocolate disappear. He and his family live in Federal Way, Washington, along with two dogs and an evil, ankle-biting cat.

Alex Sanchez has published ten novels, including the American Library Association “Best Book for Young Adults” Rainbow Boys and Lambda Award-winning So Hard to Say. His novel Bait won the Tomas Rivera Mexican-American Book Award and the Florida Gold Medal for Young Adult fiction. Alex teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program on Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Judges: Erik Brooks, Carole Lindstrom, Cathryn Mercier

Erik Brooks is the author and illustrator of many books for children, including the 2011 Washington State Book Award winner, Polar Opposites and the CBC/IRA Children’s Choices Award winner, The Practically Perfect Pajamas.

Carole Lindstrom is the author of the New York Times bestselling and Caldecott Award-winning We Are Water Protectors. She is Anishinabe/Métis and is a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe Indians. She was born and raised in Nebraska and currently makes her home in Maryland.

Catherine  Mercier teaches her passion in the graduate degree programs in children’s literature at Simmons University.  Her scholarship addresses the social construction of childhood across genres, with particular focus on the picturebook. She’s served on a number of children’s book award committees, including the Newbery, Caldecott, and Legacy.  She chaired the judging panel for the 2021 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.  

Judges: Nidhi Chanani, Matthew Forsythe, Michael Sheyahshe

Nidhi Chanani creates illustrations that capture love in everyday moments. In 2012 she was honored by the Obama Administration as a Champion of Change. She’s the author of the graphic novel Pashmina; Shubh Raatri Dost/Good Night Friend, a bilingual board book; and illustrator of the picture book I Will Be Fierce.

Matthew Forsythe is the author-illustrator of Pokko and the Drum, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and a recipient of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award Honor. He is also an illustrator for animated films and television. He was the Lead Designer on the animated show, Adventure Time (Cartoon Network).

Michael A. Sheyahshe is a member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma and author of Native Americans in Comic Books: A Critical Study. He has written for Trauma Magazine, Native Peoples, and Games for Windows and is a Trustee of the Caddo Nation’s Heritage Museum. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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