The 2021 Connecticut Book Awards recognize the best books of 2020 either about Connecticut or by authors and illustrators from Connecticut. Categories include: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Books for Young Readers. Awards also include the Bruce Fraser “Spirit of Connecticut” Award. This special award is in memory of longtime Connecticut Humanities director Bruce Fraser and celebrates Connecticut’s sense of place. Join us for a panel event featuring three of the 2021 Book Award Finalists.
Kerri Arsenault grew up in the small, rural town of Mexico, Maine, where for over 100 years the community orbited around a paper mill that provided jobs for nearly everyone in town, including three generations of her family. Kerri had a happy childhood, but years after she moved away, she realized the price she paid for that childhood. The price everyone paid. The mill, while providing the social and economic cohesion for the community, also contributed to its demise. Mill Town is a book of narrative nonfiction, investigative memoir, and cultural criticism that illuminates the rise and collapse of the working-class, the hazards of loving and leaving home, and the ambiguous nature of toxics and disease with the central question; Who or what are we willing to sacrifice for our own survival
Set at the crossroads of middle age, Benjamin S. Grossberg's fourth full-length collection of poems, My Husband Would, investigates love and family-both the families we are born into and those we create for ourselves. Funny, cinematic, and inventive, his poems recount family lore-a mother's options, the clouded circumstances of a distant marriage-side by side with the perplexities of contemporary romance. And they are charged with the recent national legalization of same-sex marriage-for many, a radical dawning of possibility, even as it quickly becomes uncontroversial, even unremarkable, in large parts of the country. These poems show us that marriage and family are a learned project, one passed down, to be attempted by each new generation as best it can with the realities at hand. Grossberg surveys the strangeness of what our parents and families teach us about intimacy and what we ourselves learn as we stumble through the landscape of contemporary dating. He finally casts his gaze to future possibility: what we would be, would do, if we could. As Grossberg notes, amid the bustle of our lives, the relationships that help us understand who we are, those losses and discoveries, begin with the simplest impulses, like "the courage/ to go up and say hello."
In Sari Rosenblatt’s collection, by turns tender and hilarious, we see fathers who are bullies and nervous watchdogs, haunted by their own pasts and fear of the future they may never see. And who do their daughters become? A substitute teacher who encounters mouthy students who believe she’s not real. Another lands a job on her city’s arson squad, researching derelict properties their owners might want to burn. A beleaguered mother, humiliated by the PTA’s queen bee, finds solace in an ancient piece of caramel candy. “I keep sucking,” she says, “until some flavor, no longer caramel, comes out.” In the end, this is what all these finely wrought characters want: to wring sweetness from what’s been passed down to them. Rosenblatt’s comic sensibility, so present in these stories, entertains and consoles, while seeming to say to her readers: you might as well laugh.
Connecticut Center for the Book at Connecticut Humanities (CTH) is the state affiliate of the national Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. The Connecticut Center for the Book promotes the written and spoken word throughout the state. The non-profit features events throughout Connecticut such as author readings or talks, poetry slams, writing workshops, pre- and post-theater talks, and much more, and they work to promote awareness of CT libraries and booksellers, as well as CT authors and their books!