J. Albert Mann of Charlestown Awarded Honors in Massachusetts Book Awards

The Massachusetts Center for the Book (MCB) has announced the award and honors titles in the 21st Annual Massachusetts Book Awards. The Awards recognize achievement in five categories of literature written by current residents of the Commonwealth.

J. Albert Mann of Charlestown earned Honors in Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature for The Degenerates (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster). A historical novel set in The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded, The Degenerates explores the subjects of disability and abuse through the experience of four young women at the facility.

“J. Albert Mann tells an incredibly important story in The Degenerates; it presents us with a revealing and unflinching piece of historical fiction that confronts the dark history of disability and eugenics in the 20th century. Congratulations to J. Albert Mann for this exceptional book and this great honor from the Massachusetts Center for the Book,” stated Sen. Sal DiDomenico.

“I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Charlestown’s J. Albert Mann on being named an Honors recipient in the 2021 Mass Book Awards for her outstanding and well-researched book, The Degenerates,” said Rep. Daniel J. Ryan. “Ms. Mann should be proud of this incredible literary achievement. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors!”

The complete list of awards is:

The Fiction Award winner is The Bear (Bellevue Literary Press) by Andrew Krivak of Somerville. This fable about seeking harmony with nature by Earth’s last human inhabitants – a father and daughter – has lessons of love, loss, family and survival.

Fiction Honors are awarded to Inheritors (Doubleday/Penguin Random House) by Asako Serizawa of Brookline and The Yellow Bird Sings (Flatiron Books/Macmillan) by Jennifer Rosner of Leverett.

The Nonfiction Award is How to Make a Slave and Other Essays (Ohio State UP) by Jerald Walker of Hingham. This collection of powerful essays about growing up, parenting and writing as a Black man in America deftly combines humor and anger in the author’s personal and cultural observations.

The Nonfiction Honors titles are Cross of Snow (Knopf/Penguin Random House) by Nicholas A. Basbanes of North Grafton and What Can a Body Do? (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House) by Sara Hendren of Cambridge.

The Poetry Award winner is When My Body Was A Clinched Fist (Black Lawrence) by Enzo Silon Surin of Swampscott. A debut collection about coming of age in New York during the 1990’s, it describes the poverty and violence of that time and place with eloquence and sensitivity.

Honors Poetry collections are Now It’s Dark (Wesleyan UP) by Peter Gizzi of Holyoke (and a professor at UMass Amherst) and Women in the Waiting Room (Black Lawrence) by Kirun Kapur of Amesbury.

The Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature Award winner is Flamer (Holt Books for Young Readers/Macmillan) by Mike Curato of Northampton. In this debut graphic novel, the author shares his own heartbreaking and triumphant personal journey with humor and compassion, offering hope for young readers struggling with self-discovery and acceptance.

Along with Mann’s book, Honors in Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature is also awarded to Trowbridge Road (Candlewick) by Marcella Pixley of Westford.

The Award winner in the Picture Book/Early Reader category is Wherever I Go (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster) by Mary Wagley Copp of Westport. This fictional story of a family in a refugee camp in Ethiopia captures the innocence and joy of childhood while portraying the courage, hardship and dreams of refugees everywhere.

Honors titles in Picture Books and Early Readers are Seven Golden Rings (Lee & Low Books) by Rajani LaRocca of Concord, and Zero Local: Next Stop: Kindness (Candlewick) by Ethan Murrow and Vita Murrow of Jamaica Plain.

“We are pleased to honor these books and bring attention to our talented Commonwealth writers,” said Sharon Shaloo, Executive Director of Massachusetts Center for the Book. “Some are seasoned authors, while others are honored for debut projects. With virtual promotion planned in the short term, we look forward to personally celebrating the honorees at a State House event when possible.” 

MCB is grateful to the following judges in the 21st Annual Awards Program: Rachel Alexander (Peabody Institute Library, Danvers), Cindy Erle (Shrewsbury Montessori School Librarian), Karen Kosko (Cambridge Public Schools Librarian, ret.), Amy Lewontin (Northeastern University Library), Michael J. Moran (Western Mass Library Advocates, Palmer), Katie Nelson (Beverly Public Library), Josh Newhouse (Bourne High School Librarian/Media Specialist), Molly Riportella (Walpole Public Library), J. D. Scrimgeour (Salem State University), Renee Wheeler (Leominster Public Library), and staff/consultants of Massachusetts Center for the Book. The Massachusetts Center for the Book, chartered as the Commonwealth Affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, is a public-private partnership charged with developing, supporting and promoting cultural programming that advances the cause of books and reading and enhances the outreach potential of Massachusetts public libraries.  For more information, and the entire list of “Must-Read” titles from which the awards were made, visit https://www.massbook

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