The Commonwealth Blog

Highlights of the 80th Annual California Book Awards Winners

May 18, 2011 @ 1:30 PM by jzipperer
Highlights of the 80th Annual California Book Awards Winners

By John Dangaran

Continuing an 80-year tradition, the ceremony for the California Book Awards will be held on June 2 at The Commonwealth Club of California's downtown San Francisco headquarters. This year, 11 authors were chosen for their achievements in literature in fields including poetry, first fiction, young adult, nonfiction, juvenile and Californiana.

In the exploration of poetry, Alexandra Teague’s Mortal Geography ventures boldly into the realm of language. Through a lens as bright and colorful as a kaleidoscope, we travel around the world and find ourselves falling into the middle of people’s lives as they struggle with issues as diverse as grammar, correspondence with loved ones at war, and the beauty of nature.

Like Teague, Zachary Mason explores the use of language as he shines a new light on the epic of Odysseus and his journey home in a witty and playful way. This first time author takes on Homer’s Odyssey with The Lost Books of the Odyssey: A Novel. In this compilation of 44 discrete pieces, Mason places himself back in the shoes of a storyteller in the oral tradition. In this story behind the story, we learn who Homer really was, where he came from, and how the legend of Odysseus came to be.

The Things A Brother Knows, by Dana Reinhardt, tells of a soldier's return from war and the effects of his changed personality on his younger brother. The narrator follows the troubled older brother as he goes on a supposed camping trip, but instead ventures off to visit ex-Marines and the families of fellow soldiers. Along the way, the internal turmoil of the soldier begins to surface and the narrator begins to realize the truth his brother is trying to hide.

This concept of yearning to uncover the truth behind a familiar face is exactly what this year’s Nonfiction Gold Medalist did with Charlie Chan, the fictional Chinese-American detective of six novels and 47 feature films. Yunte Huang’s Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective delves into the history of America’s racial prejudices, the life and work of creator Earl Derr Biggers, and the real-life inspiration, Honolulu detective Chang Apana.

In her first children’s book, graphic novelist Cecil Castellucci plants a new classic on bookshelves. This Juvenile Gold Medal winner captures a young girl’s life and her time spent alongside her grandmother. The narrative gives voice to the love they share gardening, the life lessons learned while together, and ultimately the memories of lost loved ones. Illustrator Julia Denos brings Grandma’s Gloves to life beautifully in soft, delicate tones, and readers come to understand why we walk in the footsteps of those who came before us.

For her new book A State of Change, Laura Cunningham uses her paleontology and natural science illustration background to show us what California is like when we take away contemporary life. Throughout her journey of the Golden State, Cunningham takes photographs of downtown San Francisco, parking lots in the East Bay, and the expanding suburbs of the San Fernando Valley. Then, with her knowledge of California’s plant and wildlife, she recreates awe-inspiring landscapes with oil on cotton rag paper, traveling back in time 500 years when wolves, jaguars and grizzly bears roamed our rolling hills.

We hope to see you at the ceremony. For ticket information visit the California Book Awards page under Special Events on our website.