The American Book Award

The Before Columbus Foundation announces the
Winners of the Forty-Fourth Annual
Ceremonies, Sunday, October 1, 2023, 2:00–4:30 p.m.

Oakland, CA—The Before Columbus Foundation announces the Winners of the Forty-Fourth Annual AMERICAN BOOK AWARDS. The 2023 American Book Award winners will be formally recognized on Sunday, October 1, 2023, from 2:00–4:30 p.m., at the Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco, CA. This event is open to the public.

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The American Book Awards were created to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community. The purpose of the awards is to recognize literary excellence without limitations or restrictions. There are no categories, no nominees, and therefore no losers. The award winners range from well-known and established writers to under-recognized authors and first works. There are no quotas for diversity, the winners list simply reflects it as a natural process. The Before Columbus Foundation views American culture as inclusive and has always considered the term “multicultural” to be not a description of various categories, groups, or “special interests,” but rather as the definition of all of American literature. The Awards are not bestowed by an industry organization, but rather are a writers’ award given by other writers.

2023 American Book Award Winners

Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

Ayanna Lloyd Banwo is a writer from Trinidad and Tobago currently living in London. Her debut novel When We Were Birds was the 2023 winner of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature and the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award. It was also shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize, the Kitschies Golden Tentacle Award, the McKitterick Prize, long listed for the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award and named one of the UK Observer’s Best Debuts and The Economist’s Best Books of 2022. Her short fiction and non-fiction have been published in Moko MagazineSmall Axe, and PREE, among others and shortlisted for the Small Axe Literary Competition and the Wasafiri New Writing Prize. She is the 2023 winner of the Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award and is currently at work on her second novel.

Ayanna Lloyd Banwo
When We Were Birds (Doubleday)

[A] masterly debut novel. It announces an important new voice in fiction, at once grounded and mythic in its scope and carried by an incantatory prose style that recalls Arundhati Roy’s hugely impactful debut, The God of Small Things. . . . Her writing draws on grief, but Lloyd Banwo’s literary gift lies in her capacity to transfigure that emotion – to conjure a cosmic landscape where the living coexist among the dead.”

The Observer

Mythic and captivating… Banwo roots the reader in [Trinidad’s] traditions and rituals, in the sights and sounds and colors and smells of fruit vendors, fish vendors, street preachers and schoolchildren. In the glorious matriarchy by which lineage is upheld. The result is a depiction of ordinary life that’s full and breathtaking.”

New York Times Book Review

[A] moving and mythic debut. . . . Banwo’s stunning lyricism offers a window into her characters as well as a view of the landscape…The otherworldly setting instantly pulls the reader in. This remarkable debut should not be missed.”

Publishers Weekly

There are novelists who are called to bear witness. Ayanna Lloyd Banwo is one of them. . . . Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s assured storytelling and poetic prose is magical and hypnotic. When We Were Birds delivers an intimate, resonant, and unforgettable narrative of love that makes the most wondrous, wild, and mystical aspects of our Caribbean feel dearly familiar to all of us.”

— OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature Judges

Edgar Gomez

Edgar Gomez

Edgar Gomez is a Florida-born writer with roots in Nicaragua and Puerto Rico. A graduate of University of California, Riverside’s MFA program, their words have appeared in The L.A. TimesPoets & WritersNarrativelyCatapultLithubThe Rumpus, and elsewhere online and in print. Their memoir, High-Risk Homosexual, was called a “breath of fresh air” by The New York Times; named a Best Book of 2022 by Publisher’s WeeklyBuzzfeed, and Electric Literature; and recieved a Stonewall Israel-Fishman Nonfiction Book Honor Award, and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Memoir. Their second book, a darkly-comic memoir about growing up poor in early 2000’s Florida titled Alligator Tears, will be out in 2025 from Crown. They live in Queens, New York.

Edgar Gomez
High-Risk Homosexual (Soft Skull)

A debut memoir about coming of age as a gay, Latinx person, High-Risk Homosexual opens in the ultimate anti-gay space: Gomez’s uncle’s cockfighting ring in Nicaragua, where they were sent at thirteen years old to become a man. Readers follow Gomez through the queer spaces where he learned to love being gay and Latinx, including Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, a drag queen convention in Los Angeles, and the doctor’s office where they were diagnosed a “high-risk homosexual.”

With vulnerability, humor, and quick-witted insights into racial, sexual, familial, and professional power dynamics, Gomez shares a hard-won path to taking pride in the parts of themselves they were taught to keep hidden. Their story is a scintillating, beautiful reminder of the importance of leaving space for joy.

A breath of fresh air. Gomez’s voice is equal parts warmth and acid wit, like a good friend you’re slightly afraid of . . . An exciting debut from an author with a rare point of view.”

The New York Times

Gomez’s vulnerable and humorous voice gives strength to High-Risk Homosexual . . . there is a universal narrative that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt marginalized.” 

The L.A. Review of Books

The laughs the book elicits are as loud as the beating heart binding its pages.” 

BOMB Magazine

Kelly Lytle Hernández

Kelly Lytle Hernandez (photo by Sebastian Hernández)

Kelly Lytle Hernández is a professor of History, African American Studies, and Urban Planning at UCLA where she holds The Thomas E. Lifka Endowed Chair in History and directs the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. One of the nation’s leading experts on race, immigration, and mass incarceration, she is the author of Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol (University of California Press, 2010), City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles (University of North Carolina Press, 2017), and Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands (Norton, 2022). She also leads Million Dollar Hoods, which maps fiscal and human cost of mass incarceration in Los Angeles. For her historical and contemporary work, Professor Lytle Hernández was named a 2019 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow. She is also an elected member of the Society of American Historians, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Pulitzer Prize Board.

Kelly Lytle Hernández
Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands (W.W. Norton & Company)

Bad Mexicans tells the dramatic story of the magonistas, the migrant rebels who sparked the 1910 Mexican Revolution from the United States. Led by a brilliant but ill-tempered radical named Ricardo Flores Magón, the magonistas were a motley band of journalists, miners, migrant workers, and more, who organized thousands of Mexican workers—and American dissidents—to their cause. Determined to oust Mexico’s dictator, Porfirio Díaz, who encouraged the plunder of his country by U.S. imperialists such as Guggenheim and Rockefeller, the rebels had to outrun and outsmart the swarm of U. S. authorities vested in protecting the Diaz regime. The U.S. Departments of War, State, Treasury, and Justice as well as police, sheriffs, and spies, hunted the magonistas across the country. Capturing Ricardo Flores Magón was one of the FBI’s first cases.

But the magonistas persevered. They lived in hiding, wrote in secret code, and launched armed raids into Mexico until they ignited the world’s first social revolution of the twentieth century.

Taking readers to the frontlines of the magonista uprising and the counterinsurgency campaign that failed to stop them, Kelly Lytle Hernández puts the magonista revolt at the heart of U.S. history. Long ignored by textbooks, the magonistas threatened to undo the rise of Anglo-American power, on both sides of the border, and inspired a revolution that gave birth to the Mexican-American population, making the magonistas’ story integral to modern American life.

Everett Hoagland

Everett Hoagland (photo by C.B. Claiborne)

Everett Hoagland is an emeritus professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He was the first poet laureate of New Bedford, Massachusetts (1994–1998). His work has appeared in numerous anthologies and several books, including …Here…: New and Selected Poems (Leapfrog Press, 2002) and Encounters: Poems about Race, Ethnicity, and Identity, edited by Paula Cole Jones (Skinner House, 2011). He is a member of First Unitarian Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Everett Hoagland
The Ways: Poems of Affirmation, Reflection and Wonder (North Star Nova Press)

The Ways is a collection of mainly quiet and contemplative poems. Most are new, written during the current pandemic; the other poems are good fits from Hoagland’s sixty years of previous publications . . . inspired by family, philosophical questions, manifestations of love and compassion, and aspects of the natural world in which Hoagland has found sanctuary, inspiration and some serenity during covid.

The Ways is Everett Hoagland’s best book so far. I especially appreciate [his] work written during and about the endless pandemic…he nails it.

— Martín Espada

[In] The Ways, through looking at individuals who surmounted harsh lives and through stepping with care into and through nature, Everett Hoagland advises, but does not command, the reader to see how life can flourish if we find that unity in ocean waves, a forest’s scent, or in an ‘empty bottle full of transparent silence.’ This is a book that shows the ways to oneness, to love, to memory that can serve to liberate a spirit, a people, and a planet. It is a book one can and should return to again and again.

— Devorah Major

This collection of Everett Hoagland’s mainly meditative poems will serve you as a spiritual resource for when you need support in your strivings for justice; for when you need to contemplate the depths of reality; for when you need spiritual refreshment. . . . And when you are done, feel yourself re-energized, revitalized, ready to move forward…

— Rev. Dan Harper, Unitarian Church

Anne F. Hyde

Anne F. Hyde

Anne Hyde is Professor of History and Editor-in-Chief of the Western Historical Quarterly. Her most recent book, Born of Lakes and Plains: Mixed-Descent Peoples and the Making of the American West, was published by W. W. Norton in 2022. She has served as President of the Pacific Coast Branch of the AHA and on the elected councils of the AHA and the Western History Association. She served as Faculty Director of the AHA‘s “Tuning the History Discipline” project to help history departments assess and reform courses and curricula. Her earlier work includes Empires, Nations, and Families: A New History of the North American West, 1800-1860 (Ecco 2012) that won Columbia University’s Bancroft Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. At OU she serves on the Editorial Board of the University of Oklahoma Press, the Faculty Board of the Fred Jones Art Museum, and on the most recent search for a new VP and Provost.

Anne F. Hyde
Born of Lakes and Plains: Mixed-Descent Peoples and the Making of the American West (W.W. Norton & Company)

Often overlooked, there is mixed blood at the heart of America. And at the heart of Native life for centuries there were complex households using intermarriage to link disparate communities and create protective circles of kin. Beginning in the seventeenth century, Native peoples—Ojibwes, Otoes, Cheyennes, Chinooks, and others—formed new families with young French, English, Canadian, and American fur traders who spent months in smoky winter lodges or at boisterous summer rendezvous. These families built cosmopolitan trade centers from Michilimackinac on the Great Lakes to Bellevue on the Missouri River, Bent’s Fort in the southern Plains, and Fort Vancouver in the Pacific Northwest. Their family names are often imprinted on the landscape, but their voices have long been muted in our histories. Anne F. Hyde’s pathbreaking history restores them in full.

Vividly combining the panoramic and the particular, Born of Lakes and Plains follows five mixed-descent families whose lives intertwined major events: imperial battles over the fur trade; the first extensions of American authority west of the Appalachians; the ravages of imported disease; the violence of Indian removal; encroaching American settlement; and, following the Civil War, the disasters of Indian war, reservations policy, and allotment. During the pivotal nineteenth century, mixed-descent people who had once occupied a middle ground became a racial problem drawing hostility from all sides. Their identities were challenged by the pseudo-science of blood quantum—the instrument of allotment policy—and their traditions by the Indian schools established to erase Native ways. As Anne F. Hyde shows, they navigated the hard choices they faced as they had for centuries: by relying on the rich resources of family and kin. Here is an indelible western history with a new human face.

Jamil Jan Kochai

Jamil Jan Kochai (Photo by Jalil Kochai)

Jamil Jan Kochai is the author of The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories, winner of the 2023 Aspen Words Literary Prize and a finalist for 2022 National Book Award. His debut novel 99 Nights in Logar was a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel. His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Zoetrope, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and The Best American Short Stories. His essays have been published at The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Kochai was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and a Truman Capote Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Currently, he is a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.

Jamil Jan Kochai
The Haunting of Haji Hotak and Other Stories (Viking)

Pen/Hemingway finalist Jamil Jan Kochai ​breathes life into his contemporary Afghan characters, moving between modern-day Afghanistan and the Afghan diaspora in America. In these arresting stories verging on both comedy and tragedy, often starring young characters whose bravado is matched by their tenderness, Kochai once again captures “a singular, resonant voice, an American teenager raised by Old World Afghan storytellers.”

In “Playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain,” a young man’s video game experience turns into a surreal exploration on his own father’s memories of war and occupation. Set in Kabul, “Return to Sender” follows two married doctors driven by guilt to leave the US and care for their fellow Afghans, even when their own son disappears. A college student in the US in “Hungry Ricky Daddy” starves himself in protest of Israeli violence against Palestine. And in the title story, “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak,” we learn the story of a man codenamed Hajji, from the perspective of a government surveillance worker, who becomes entrenched in the immigrant family’s life.

The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories is a moving exploration of characters grappling with the ghosts of war and displacement—and one that speaks to the immediate political landscape we reckon with today.

A luminous new collection of stories from a young writer who “has brought his culture’s rich history, mythology, and lyricism to American letters.”

— Sandra Cisneros

Aidan Levy 

Aidan Levy (photo by Jahsie Ault)

Aidan Levy is the author of Saxophone Colossus: The Life and Music of Sonny Rollins and Dirty Blvd.: The Life and Music of Lou Reed, and editor of Patti Smith on Patti Smith: Interviews and Encounters. A former Leon Levy Center for Biography Fellow, his writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Village Voice, JazzTimes, The Nation, and elsewhere. He is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, where he has served as co-convener of the African American Studies Colloquium and works with the Center for Jazz Studies. For ten years, he was the baritone saxophonist in the Stan Rubin Orchestra. He lives with his family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Aidan Levy
Saxophone Colossus: The Life and Music of Sonny Rollins (Hachette Books)

Based on more than 200 interviews with Rollins himself, family members, friends, and collaborators, as well as Rollins’ extensive personal archive, Saxophone Colossus is the comprehensive portrait of this legendary saxophonist and composer, civil rights activist and environmentalist. A child of the Harlem Renaissance, Rollins’ precocious talent landed him on the bandstand and in the recording studio with Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, or playing opposite Billie Holiday. A master in his own right, he recorded Tenor Madness, featuring John Coltrane; Way Out WestFreedom Suite, the first civil rights-themed album of the hard bop era; A Night at the Village Vanguard; and the 1956 classic Saxophone Colossus.

Yet his meteoric rise to fame was not without its challenges. He served two sentences on Rikers Island and won his battle with heroin addiction. In 1959, Rollins took a two-year sabbatical from recording and performing, practicing up to 16 hours a day on the Williamsburg Bridge. In 1968, he left again to study at an ashram in India. He returned to performing from 1971 until his retirement in 2012.

The story of Sonny Rollins—innovative, unpredictable, larger than life—is the story of jazz itself, and Sonny’s own narrative is as timeless and timely as the art form he represents. Part jazz oral history told in the musicians’ own words, part chronicle of one man’s quest for social justice and spiritual enlightenment, this is the definitive biography of one of the most enduring and influential artists in jazz and American history.

Aidan Levy’s art of a biography Saxophone Colossus: The Life and Music of Sonny Rollins achieves the majesty of its subject. Witty, refreshing, candid and wise, the book offers an electrifyingly energetic view of one of history’s greatest musical thinkers. Levy produces a story of spiritual triumph and human dignity, one that is deeply contextualized in the history of the African in the Americas. The most important contribution to the historical biography of jazz since Robin D.G. Kelley’s Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original.” 

 — Justin Desmangles

Bojan Louis

Bojan Louis

Bojan Louis is Diné of the Naakai dine’é, born for the Áshííhí. He is the author of Sinking Bell: Stories and a book of poetry, Currents, which received an American Book Award. He has been a resident at MacDowell. He teaches creative writing at the University of Arizona.

Bojan Louis
Sinking Bell: Stories (Gray Wolf Press)

An ex-con hired to fix up a school bus for a couple living off the grid in the desert finds himself in the middle of their tattered relationship. An electrician’s plan to take his young nephew on a hike in the mountains, as a break from the motel room where they live, goes awry thanks to an untrustworthy new coworker. A night custodian makes the mistake of revealing too much about his work at a medical research facility to a girl who shares his passion for death metal. A relapsing addict struggles to square his desire for a White woman he meets in a writing class with family expectations and traditions.

Set in and around Flagstaff, the stories in Sinking Bell depict violent collisions of love, cultures, and racism. In his gritty and searching fiction debut, Bojan Louis draws empathetic portraits of day laborers, metalheads, motel managers, aspiring writers and musicians, construction workers, people passing through with the hope of something better somewhere else. His characters strain to temper predatory or self-destructive impulses; they raise families, choose families, and abandon families; they endeavor to end cycles of abuse and remake themselves anew.

In Sinking Bell, Bojan Louis writes with the inner-ear of a virtuoso listener. His melodic and rhythmic sense is unerring, projecting a tremendous authority of feeling, and an undeniable sense of reality. A miraculous artist and storyteller.

— Justin Desmangles

Leila Mottley

Leila Mottley

New York Times Writer to Watch, Leila Mottley is an author native to Oakland, California, with an interest in reflecting on institutional and individual inequity, liberation, and joy through writing. Her debut novel Nightcrawling was selected as an Oprah’s Book Club pick. Leila has performed and run poetry workshops as the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate and her work has been published in Oprah Daily and The New York Times.

Leila Mottley
Nightcrawling (Knopf)

Kiara and her brother Marcus are barely scraping by in a squalid East Oakland apartment complex optimistically called the Regal-Hi. Both have dropped out of high school, their family fractured by death and prison. But while Marcus clings to his dream of rap stardom, Kiara hunts for work to pay their rent—which has more than doubled—and to keep the nine-year-old boy next door, abandoned by his mother, safe and fed.

One night, what begins as a drunken misunderstanding with a stranger turns into the job Kiara never imagined wanting but now desperately needs: nightcrawling. And her world breaks open even further when her name surfaces in an investigation that exposes her as a key witness in a massive scandal within the Oakland Police Department.

Full of edge, raw beauty, electrifying intensity, and piercing vulnerability, Nightcrawling marks the stunning arrival of a voice unlike any we have heard before.

Nightcrawling bursts at the seams of every page and swallows you whole.

— Tommy Orange

Nightcrawling is a scorching, incredibly readable book . . . Get ready. Or don’t. It doesn’t matter. Leila Mottley is here.

— Kiese Laymon

Darryl Pinckney

Darryl Pinckney (photo by Dominique Nabokov)

Darryl Pinckney is a long time contributor to The New York Review of Books, the author of two novels, High Cotton (1992) and Black Deutschland (2016), and several works of nonfiction, including Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature (2002), Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy (2014), and Busted in New York and Other Essays(2019). He has contributed to numerous other publications, including The Guardian, Harper’s, Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, Slate, TLS, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. His several theatrical collaborations with director Robert Wilson have appeared internationally and at Brooklyn Academy of Music. His most recent book is Come Back in September: A Literary Education on West Sixty-Seventh Street, Manhattan.

Darryl Pinckney
Come Back in September: A Literary Education on West Sixty-seventh Street, Manhattan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Darryl Pinckney arrived at Columbia University in New York City in the early 1970s and had the opportunity to enroll in Elizabeth Hardwick’s creative writing class at Barnard. It changed his life. When the semester was over, he continued to visit her, and he became close to both Hardwick and Barbara Epstein, Hardwick’s best friend and neighbor and a fellow founder of The New York Review of Books. Pinckney was drawn into a New York literary world where he encountered some of the fascinating contributors to the Review, among them Susan Sontag, Robert Lowell, and Mary McCarthy. Yet the intellectual and artistic freedom that Pinckney observed on West Sixty-seventh Street could conflict with the demands of his politically minded family and their sense of the unavoidable lessons of black history.

How fortunate we are to have Darryl Pinckney’s love so generously offered in these pages. Elegant, vivacious, supremely confidant and yet beguilingly vulnerable. To immerse oneself as a reader into Come Back in September is to submerge into the great river of longing and wonder of knowledge itself. The sparks, the fire, the eventual enveloping inferno of knowing. The lucky and unlucky happenstance, seemingly random intersections of occurrence becoming synchronicity, producing flames of knowledge burn everywhere. As readers, we are invited into a very private and intimate space of close-talk and even closer kinship. Pinckney’s gifts as a writer are in such abundance throughout, the prose is almost luxurious in its splendor. Reading with an open heart, we are welcomed to a world of luminous discovery unfolding in the mind of a young man at the beginning of intellectual adventure.

Sherry Shenoda

Sherry Shenoda

“I’m a poet and pediatrician, a lover, daughter, mother, friend, Orthodox Christian. As a pediatrician (baby doc), I’m trained in a human rights approach to medicine. My faith informs my practice of medicine, my practice of medicine informs my faith, and both inform my writing.” — Sherry Shenoda

Ms. Shenoda is a Coptic poet, born in Cairo, living near Los Angeles. Working at the intersection of human rights and child health, she serves as a pediatrician in a nonprofit health center. She is the author of The Lightkeeper: A Novel, and the poetry collection Mummy Eaters.

Sherry Shenoda
Mummy Eaters (University of Nebraska Press)

Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, Sherry Shenoda’s collection Mummy Eaters follows in the footsteps of an imagined ancestor, one of the daughters of the house of Akhenaten in the Eighteenth Dynasty, Egypt. Shenoda forges an imagined path through her ancestor’s mummification and journey to the afterlife. Parallel to this exploration run the implications of colonialism on her passage.

The mythology of the ancient Egyptians was oriented toward resurrection through the preservation of the human body in mummification. Shenoda juxtaposes this reverence for the human body as sacred matter and a pathway to eternal life with the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European fascination with ingesting Egyptian human remains as medicine and using exhumed Egyptian mummies as paper, paint, and fertilizer. Today Egyptian human remains are displayed in museums. Much of Mummy Eaters is written as a call and response, in the Coptic tradition, between the imagined ancestor and the author as descendant.

I think of this book as a book of invocations. A shimmering history of histories. A wail in a chorus of wailing and a prayer in a chorus of prayers where time is pleated and beloved people and places who have passed into death are ‘alive, there, through the aperture of grief.’ This book is a prayer for time to ‘settle an aloe on mother’s heart.’ Such poems thrum with the brilliant, meditative attention of someone who learns from every thing. See: ‘Lend me, gazelle, your fleet hooves […] / I seek the Field of Reeds, the blue lotus. / Bring the cobra. I do not fear him.’ There is such deep intelligence, tenderness, and courage everywhere here.

— Aracelis Girmay

Mosab Abu Toha

Mosab Abu Toha

Mosab Abu Toha is a Palestinian poet, short story writer, and essayist from Gaza. Abu Toha is the author of Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear: Poems from Gaza (2022, City Lights), which won a 2022 Palestine Book Award. Abu Toha is the founder of the Edward Said Library, and from 2019 to 2020, he was a visiting poet and librarian-in-residence at Harvard University.

Mosab Abu Toha
Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear: Poems from Gaza (City Lights Books)

In this poetry debut Mosab Abu Toha writes about his life under siege in Gaza, first as a child, and then as a young father. A survivor of four brutal military attacks, he bears witness to a grinding cycle of destruction and assault, and yet, his poetry is inspired by a profound humanity.

These poems emerge directly from the experience of growing up and living in constant lockdown, and often under direct attack. Like Gaza itself, they are filled with rubble and the ever-present menace of surveillance drones policing a people unwelcome in their own land, and they are also suffused with the smell of tea, roses in bloom, and the view of the sea at sunset. Children are born, families continue traditions, students attend university, and libraries rise from the ruins as Palestinians go on about their lives, creating beauty and finding new ways to survive.

Mosab Abu Toha is an astonishingly gifted young poet from Gaza, almost a seer with his eloquent lyrical vernacular. . . . His poems break my heart and awaken it, at the same time. I feel I have been waiting for his work all my life.”

Naomi Shihab Nye

Mosab Abu Toha is an astonishingly gifted young poet from Gaza, almost a seer with his eloquent lyrical vernacular. . . . His poems break my heart and awaken it, at the same time. I feel I have been waiting for his work all my life.

Sean Hill

Mosab Abu Toha’s Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear arrives with such refreshing clarity and voice amidst a sea of immobilizing self-consciousness. It is no great feat to say a complicated thing in a complicated way, but here is a poet who says it plain: ‘In Gaza, some of us cannot completely die.’ Later, ‘This is how we survived.’ It’s remarkable. This is poetry of the highest order.”

— Kaveh Akbar

Javier Zamora

Javier Zamora (photo by Gerardo del Valle)

Javier Zamora was born in La Herradura, El Salvador in 1990. When he was a year old, his father fled El Salvador due to the US-funded Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992). His mother followed her husband’s footsteps in 1995 when Javier was about to turn five. Zamora was left at the care of his grandparents who helped raise him until he migrated to the US when he was nine. His first poetry collection, Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), explores some of these themes.

Javier Zamora
Solito: A Memoir (Hogarth)

Javier Zamora’s adventure is a three-thousand-mile journey from his small town in El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, and across the U.S. border. He will leave behind his beloved aunt and grandparents to reunite with a mother who left four years ago and a father he barely remembers. Traveling alone amid a group of strangers and a “coyote” hired to lead them to safety, Javier expects his trip to last two short weeks.

At nine years old, all Javier can imagine is rushing into his parents’ arms, snuggling in bed between them, and living under the same roof again. He cannot foresee the perilous boat trips, relentless desert treks, pointed guns, arrests and deceptions that await him; nor can he know that those two weeks will expand into two life-altering months alongside fellow migrants who will come to encircle him like an unexpected family.

A memoir as gripping as it is moving, Solito provides an immediate and intimate account not only of a treacherous and near-impossible journey, but also of the miraculous kindness and love delivered at the most unexpected moments. Solito is Javier Zamora’s story, but it’s also the story of millions of others who had no choice but to leave home.

The magic of this book lies not only in the beguiling voice of young Javier, or the harrowing journey and immense bravery of the migrants, or in the built-in hero’s journey of this narrative. It’s hard to reconcile the fact that this book hasn’t always been with us. How can something so essential and fundamental to the American story not already be part of our canon?

San Francisco Chronicle

Zamora’s [Solito] is a distinctly American memoir, and he tells a distinctly American story.

— The Nation


Maxine Hong Kingston

Maxine Hong Kingston (photo by Maryanne Teng Hogarth).

The daughter of Chinese immigrants, poet, memoirist, and fiction writer Maxine Hong Kingston was born in Stockton, California, and educated at the University of California, Berkeley.

Kingston’s numerous nonfiction books include The Fifth Book of Peace (2003), To Be the Poet (2002), National Book Award-winner China Men (1980), and National Book Critics Circle Award-winner The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (1976). She is also the author of the novel Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book (1989). She edited the anthology Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace (2006), compiled from the work of participants in the therapeutic poetry workshops she has led for more than 500 veterans of war.

Kingston is the author of the book-length poem I Love a Broad Margin to My Life (2011). Walt Whitman influenced her, and the poetic lines in the book shift between real and imagined time, tracing the writer’s journey. Discussing her decision to compose I Love a Broad Margin to My Life as a book-length, free verse poem, Kingston spoke in an interview of the decade each of her previous two books had taken to write and her desire for a lighter, faster form. She noted, “there is not enough time to write everything that one is feeling and thinking—and I have thought that my whole writing life.”

Her honors include the National Medal of Arts (presented by former President Barack Obama), the National Endowment for the Humanities’ National Humanities Medal (presented by former President Bill Clinton), the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Award in Literature, the National Book Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the title Living Treasure of Hawaii. She is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley and lives in Oakland, California.


Neta C. Crawford

Neta C. Crawford

Neta C. Crawford is the author of The Pentagon, Climate Change, and War: Charting the Rise and Fall of U.S. Military Emissions (MIT Press, 2022). Crawford is also the author of three other books, Accountability for Killing: Moral Responsibility for Collateral Damage in America’s Post-9/11 Wars (2013), Soviet Military Aircraft (1987) and Argument and Change in World Politics (2002), named Best Book in International History and Politics by the American Political Science Association. She has written more than two dozen peer reviewed articles on issues of war and peace. Dr. Crawford has served on the governing Board of the Academic Council of the United Nations System and on the Governing Council of the American Political Science Association. Dr. Crawford was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Science in 2023.

Students of history will note that Eisenhower’s oft-quoted warnings about the Military-Industrial Complex occurred on the very same day as the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. This extraordinary ordinary fact reveals something essential about the two-faced, Jekyll and Hyde character of the United States and its military position around the world. That the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 was named for a senator who once threw a snowball on the senate floor in refutation of global warming should give us all pause.

The military has for years (unlike many politicians) acknowledged that climate change is real, creating conditions so extreme that some military officials fear future climate wars. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Defense—military forces and DOD agencies—is the largest single energy consumer in the United States and the world’s largest institutional greenhouse gas emitter. In this eye-opening book, Neta Crawford traces the U.S. military’s growing consumption of energy and calls for a reconceptualization of foreign policy and military doctrine. Only such a rethinking, she argues, will break the link between national security and fossil fuels.

The Pentagon, Climate Change, and War shows how the U.S. economy and military together have created a deep and long-term cycle of economic growth, fossil fuel use, and dependency. This cycle has shaped U.S. military doctrine and, over the past fifty years, has driven the mission to protect access to Persian Gulf oil. Crawford shows that even as the U.S. military acknowledged and adapted to human-caused climate change, it resisted reporting its own greenhouse gas emissions.

Crawford’s careful study provides pathways to decreasing U.S. military spending and reorienting the economy to more economically productive activities; heeding her informed advice could also free us to spend fewer anxious nights worrying about the next war and the next heat wave.”

— Bill McKibben

Crawford exposes the self-reinforcing cycle of fossil fuel dependency and vast military deployments to ensure its availability. Without a radical shift in traditional military thinking and clear understanding of ‘ecological security’ the United States—indeed the world—will never meet its climate goals”

— Jerry Brown


Bell Hooks

bell hooks (photo by Karjean Levine)

Activist and writer bell hooks was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky as Gloria Jean Watkins. As a child, hooks performed poetry readings of work by Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She earned a BA from Stanford University, an MA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a PhD from the University of California-Santa Cruz.

hooks was the author of over 30 books, including Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1981), named by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the 20 most influential books published in 20 years; Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (1984); Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics (1991), winner of the American Book Award/Before Columbus Foundation Award; Teaching to Transgress (1994); the children’s book Homemade Love (2002), named the Bank Street College Children’s Book of the Year; and the poetry collections And There We Wept (1978) and When Angels Speak of Love (2005), and Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place (2012), winner of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association’s Best Poetry Award.

Throughout her life, hooks explored the relationship between sexism, racism, and economic disparity in books aimed at scholars and at the public. In an interview with Bomb Magazine, she said, “To think of certain ways of writing as activism is crucial. What does it matter if we write eloquently about decolonization if it’s just white privileged kids reading our eloquent theory about it? Masses of black people suffer from internalized racism, our intellectual work will never impact on their lives if we do not move it out of the academy. That’s why I think mass media is so important.”

hooks was the winner of the Writer’s Award from the Lila-Wallace—Reader’s Digest Fund, and has been named one of our nation’s leading public intellectuals by the Atlantic. She taught at the USC, Yale University, Oberlin College, the City College of New York, and Berea College.

hooks died in late 2021 at the age of 69.