Valley writers shine in initial round of Mass Book Award competition: 12 area authors and author/illustrators long-listed for 2024 awards

Northampton novelist Margot Douaihy has been long-listed for her crime novel “Scorched Grace.”

Northampton novelist Margot Douaihy has been long-listed for her crime novel “Scorched Grace.” Chattman Photography

Florence illustrator and children’s book author Grace Lin has been long-listed for “Chinese Menu” and “Once Upon a Book.”

Florence illustrator and children’s book author Grace Lin has been long-listed for “Chinese Menu” and “Once Upon a Book.” Mass Center for the Book

Tony and Angela DeTerlizzi of Amherst have been long-listed for their first picture book collaboration, “A Very Cranky Book.”

Tony and Angela DeTerlizzi of Amherst have been long-listed for their first picture book collaboration, “A Very Cranky Book.” Mass Center for the Book

Northampton writer Andrew Leland’s “The Country of the Blind” has been long-listed for a Mass Book Award in nonfiction. 

Northampton writer Andrew Leland’s “The Country of the Blind” has been long-listed for a Mass Book Award in nonfiction.  Staff Photo/Carol Lollis

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 05-10-2024 9:17 PM

It’s been another good year for Valley writers.

Twelve area authors (and author/illustrators) have had new work long-listed for the 2024 Massachusetts Book Awards, presented annually by the Massachusetts Center for the Book (MCB) in five categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, middle grade/young adult literature, and picture books/early readers.

“The Mass Book Awards are recognized as one of the strongest state award programs in the nation,” Courtney Andree, the Center for the Book’s executive director, said in a statement. “This year’s long-lists reflect the strength, diversity, and vitality of the Commonwealth’s writing community — across all genres.”

Among this year’s recognized authors are some familiar names, such as Grace Lin, the Florence children’s book author and illustrator, and veteran children’s book author Jane Yolen of Hatfield. Both are previous Mass Book Award winners.

Two Valley writers have been long-listed for a Mass Book Award in fiction. Novelist Sabina Murray, a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has penned “Muckross Abbey and Other Stories,” a collection of Gothic tales set in varied locales, and Northampton writer Margot Douaihy has been recognized for “Scorched Grace.”

Douaihy’s novel won numerous accolades last year, including being named best crime novel of the year by the New York Times and The Guardian; Boston Magazine named Douaihy its best author of 2023.

Three of the Mass Book fiction winners in the last four years have come from the Valley: Uzma Aslam Khan, Ruth Ozeki and Ocean Vuong.

Another Northampton author, Andrew Leland, is long-listed for the 2024 Mass Book Award in nonfiction for his memoir “The Country of the Blind,” a vivid account of losing his sight as well as a deeply researched story on the history, politics and culture of blindness.

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Meanwhile, collections by three area poets — Melissa Dickey of Deerfield (“Ordinary Entanglement”), Peter Gizzi of Holyoke (“Fierce Elegy”), and Sebastian Merrill of Amherst (“Ghost::Seeds”) — have been long-listed for the poetry award.

The list of Valley authors of children’s books, both for older and younger readers, is even longer. Lin is nominated for her middle grade reader “Chinese Menu” and for the early reader “Once Upon a Book”; she illustrated and co-wrote the latter title with Kate Messner, a New York/Florida writer.

In Amherst, Hannah Moushabeck has been recognized for “Homeland: My Father Dreams of Palestine,” a tale based on stories she learned of her family’s history in the Middle East. And illustrator/children’s author Tony DiTerlizzi and his wife, Angela, a children’s book author, have been nominated for their first picture book collaboration, “A Very Cranky Book.”

Yolen, who’s published over 400 books for children and adults, has been nominated for her early reader “Nana and Me: Special Poems Just for Us,” and Crystal Maldonado of Springfield has been recognized for her young adult novel “The Fall of Whit Rivera.”

Karolina Zapal, MCB’s program manager, says she plans to promote these and all the other 2024 long-listed books in Massachusetts and at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. An award winner and two honors titles will be announced for the categories (and for translated literature) in late summer.

The Mass Center for the Book, located in Northampton, is one of 50 book agencies — one from each state — that work with the Library of Congress to advance the value of books and reading.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.