Announcing Our Award Winners for 2017 Books

April 9, 2018 — The Society of Midland Authors announces its choices today for its annual awards, honoring the best books by Midwest authors published in 2017. In each category, a panel of literary judges chose a winner, as well as one or more honorees whose work was also deemed worthy of recognition. The Society will present the awards May 8 in Chicago.

Adult Fiction

WINNER: Sharon Solwitz, “Once, in Lourdes,” Spiegel & Grau. (Author lives in Chicago.)

HONOREES: Curtis Dawkins, “The Graybar Hotel,” Scribner. (Author lives at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Michigan.)

Lesley Nneka Arimah, “What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky,” Riverhead Books. (Author lives in Minneapolis.)

Ben Greenman, “Don Quixotic,” Antibookclub. (Author was born in Chicago and attended graduate school at Northwestern University; now lives in Ridgewood, New York.)

The judges for Adult Fiction were Anne Calcagno, Eckhard Gerdes and Amy Hassinger.

Adult Nonfiction

WINNER: Doug Stanton, “The Odyssey of Echo Company: The 1968 Tet Offensive and the Epic Battle to Survive the Vietnam War,” Scribner. (Author lives in Traverse City, Michigan.)

HONOREES: Bonnie Rochman, “The Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies Are Changing the Way We Have Kids—and the Kids We Have,” Scientific American/Farrar, Straus & Giroux. (Author grew up in Missouri; lives now in Seattle.)

Lindsey Fitzharris, “The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine,” Scientific American/Farrar, Straus & Giroux. (Author grew up in Mount Prospect, Illinois; lives in Great Doddington, United Kingdom.)

Rich Cohen, “The Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse,” Farrar, Straus & Giroux. (Author is a former Glencoe native; now lives in New York.)

The judges for Adult Nonfiction were Mervin Block, Jim Schwab and Joyce Burns Zeiss.

Biography & Memoir

WINNER: Jonathan Eig, “Ali: A Life,” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (Author lives in Chicago.)

HONOREES: Donna Seaman, “Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists,” Bloomsbury. (Author lives in Chicago.)

James Fuller, “Oliver P. Morton and the Politics of the Civil War and Reconstruction,” The Kent State University Press. (Author lives in Monrovia, Indiana.)

David A. Nichols, “Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower’s Secret Campaign Against Joseph McCarthy,” Simon & Schuster. (Author lives in Winfield, Kansas.)

The judges for Biography & Memoir were Bob Remer, Taylor Pensoneau and James Plath.

Children’s Fiction

WINNER: Erika L. Sanchez, “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” Knopf Books for Young Readers. (Author lives in Chicago.)

HONOREES: Aaron Reynolds, “Creepy Pair of Underwear,” Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. (Author lives in Fox River Grove, Illinois.)

Natasha Tarpley, “The Harlem Charade,” Scholastic. (Author lives in Chicago.)

Helen Frost, “When My Sister Started Kissing,” Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. (Author lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.)

The judges for Children’s Fiction were Debbie Chocolate, Shari Frost and Brian E. Wilson.

Children’s Nonfiction

WINNER: Mary Losure, “Isaac the Alchemist: : Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d,” Candlewick Press. (Author lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.)

HONOREES: Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat, “Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz,” Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers. (Authors are former Illinois resident, living now in New Jersey.)

Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, “Meet Cindy Sherman: Artist, Photographer, Chameleon,” Roaring Brook Press. (Greenburg lives in St. Louis; Jordan was raised in Cleveland and lives in New York City.)

The judges for Children’s Nonfiction were Marlene Targ Brill, Lisa Holton and Patrick McBriarty.


WINNER: Marcus Wicker, “Silencer,” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (Author was raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan; lives in Memphis, Tennessee.)

HONOREES: Jim Daniels, “Rowing Inland,” Wayne State University Press. (Author was born in Detroit; lives in Pittsburgh.)

Erin Adair-Hodges, “Let’s All Die Happy,” University of Pittsburgh Press. (Author lives in Toledo, Ohio.)

The judges for Poetry were Linda Nemec Foster, Robert Sutherland and Bill Yarrow.

James Friend Memorial Award
for Literary and Dramatic Criticism


WINNER: Adam Morgan, editor-in-chief of the Chicago Review of Books, a contributing writer at Chicago magazine, and a book critic for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

The annual awards dinner will take place Tuesday, May 8, 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 Mary Wisniewski, Chicago Tribune transporation reporter and winner of last year’s SMA biography award for her book “Algren: A Life.”

Tickets are $75 each. Reservations can by made by PayPal or check.

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.