SMA’s Award Winners for the Region’s Best Books of 2015

The Society of Midland Authors will present its annual awards May 10 in Chicago, honoring its choices for the best books by Midwest authors published in 2015:


WINNER: Joe Meno, Marvel and a WonderAkashic Books. (Author lives in Chicago.)

— Bonnie Jo Campbell, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters
W.W. Norton. (Author lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.)
— Rebecca Makkai, Music for WartimeViking. (Author lives in Chicago.)

The judges for Adult Fiction were Mark Eleveld, Tony Romano and Michele Weldon.


WINNER: Alice Dreger, Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for JusticePenguin Press. (Author lives in the Chicago area.)

— Clark Elliott, The Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole My Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get it Back
Viking. (Author lives in the Chicago area.)
— Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in AmericaHoughton Mifflin Harcourt. (Shaefer lives in Michigan; Edin lives in the Baltimore area.)
— Jeremy Smith, Epic Measures: One Doctor. Seven Billion Patients, Harper Wave. (Author was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, and now lives in Missoula, Montana.)

The judges for Adult Nonfiction were Connie Fletcher and Kim Hiltwein.


WINNER: Ray E. Boomhower, John Bartlow Martin: A Voice for the Underdog, Indiana University Press. (Author lives in Indianapolis.)

— Michele Weldon, Escape Points: A Memoir, 
Chicago Review Press. (Author lives in River Forest, Illinois.)
— Joseph Tabbi, Nobody Grew but the Business: On the Life and Work of William Gaddis, Northwestern University Press. (Author lives in Chicago.)

The judges for Biography & Memoir were Davis Schneiderman, Robert Remer and John Hallwas.


WINNER: Evan Kuhlman, Great Ball of Light, Atheneum Books for Young Readers. (Author lives in Ohio.)

— Stephen T. Johnson, Alphabet School, 
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books. (Author lives in Lawrence, Kansas.)
— Kate DiCamillo, Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon: Tales from Deckawoo Drive, Volume Two, Candlewick. (Author lives in Minneapolis.)
— Melinda Braun, Stranded, Simon Pulse. (Author grew up in Wisconsin and lives in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.)

The judges for Children’s Fiction were Nancy Crocker and Judith Fradin.


WINNER: Ann Bausum, Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights, Viking Books for Young Readers. (Author lives in Janesville, Wisconsin.)

— Suzanne Slade, The Inventor’s Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, 
Charlesbridge. (Author lives in Libertyville, Illinois.)
— Fern Schumer Chapman, Like Finding My Twin, Gussie Rose Press. (Author lives in Lake Bluff, Illinois.)

The judges for Children’s Nonfiction were Margaret McMullan and Ilene Cooper.



WINNER: Iliana Rocha, Karankawa, University of Pittsburgh Press. (Author lives in Portage, Michigan.)

— Dennis Hinrichsen, Skin Music, 
Southern Indiana Review Press. (Author lives in Lansing, Michigan.)
— Lisa Fay Coutley, Errata, Southern Illinois University Press. (Author lives in Ephraim, Utah, and is a former Michigan resident.)

The judges for Poetry were Jim McGarrah, Grace Bauer and Joshua Corey.


Kelli Christiansen, founder and editor of Chicago Book Review.


Robert Remer

The Society, founded in 1915 by a group of authors including Hamlin Garland, Harriet Monroe and Vachel Lindsay, has given out annual awards since 1957. The juried competition is open to authors who live in, were born in, or have strong ties to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota or Wisconsin.

Notable winners have included Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, Studs Terkel, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mike Royko, Jane Smiley, Dempsey Travis, Leon Forrest, William Maxwell, Louise Erdrich, Scott Turow, Alex Kotlowitz, Aleksandar Hemon, Stuart Dybek and Roger Ebert.

This year’s winners will receive a $500 award and a recognition plaque. The coordinator of this year’s contest was Marlene Targ Brill. Since 2002, the Society has also hosted the presentation of the James Friend Memorial Award for Literary and Dramatic Criticism at its banquet.

The annual awards dinner will take place Tuesday, May 10, at the Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan, 22nd floor, Chicago, which features a beautiful view of Lake Michigan and Millennium Park. A reception with cash bar begins at 6 p.m. followed by the dinner and awards ceremony at 7 p.m.

The master of ceremonies will be Rex Huppke, columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

Tickets to the awards banquet can be purchased two ways:

— Buy tickets for $76 each through PayPal at
— Or print out the reservation form at and mail it to us with a check for $75 for each ticket.