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2022 Reading the West Award Winners


Here are the 2022 Reading the West Award winners in the categories of Fiction, Debut Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Memoir/Biography, Eating the West, Picture Book, Young Readers, and Young Adult.

The Literate Lizard is proud to have served on the Nonfiction judging committee.

Cloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982168438
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Published: Scribner - September 28th, 2021

The winner in Fiction. Among the most celebrated and beloved novels of recent times, Cloud Cuckoo Land is a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring story about children on the cusp of adulthood in worlds in peril, who find resilience, hope, and a book.

Damnation Spring Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982144418
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Published: Scribner - May 3rd, 2022

The Debut Fiction winner. A stunning novel about love, work, and marriage that asks how far one family and one community will go to protect their future. Told in prose as clear as a spring-fed creek, Damnation Spring is an intimate, compassionate portrait of a family whose bonds are tested and a community clinging to a vanishing way of life. An extraordinary story of the transcendent, enduring power of love—between husband and wife, mother and child, and longtime neighbors. An essential novel for our times.

Desert Apocrypha Cover Image
ISBN: 9781735151670
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Published: Casa Urraca Press - November 2nd, 2021

The winner in Poetry. When Zach Hively moved back to New Mexico, he found his new home not in the city but in the high desert, where things make a different sort of sense. Over two years, he wrote these five suites of poems from that place-feral and introspective, playful and mindful-and made a book that feels as analog as the desert itself. These poems "are so richly spare, so warmly restrained that metaphor replaces stone and distance as it flows from the underground as apocrypha, as products of authenticity, outside the canon, saying through him what only he can say" (V. B. Price).

On Juneteenth Cover Image
ISBN: 9781631498831
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Published: Liveright - May 4th, 2021

The Nonfiction winner. Weaving together American history, dramatic family chronicle, and searing episodes of memoir, Annette Gordon-Reed’s On Juneteenth provides a historian’s view of the country’s long road to Juneteenth, recounting both its origins in Texas and the enormous hardships that African-Americans have endured in the century since, from Reconstruction through Jim Crow and beyond. All too aware of the stories of cowboys, ranchers, and oilmen that have long dominated the lore of the Lone Star State, Gordon-Reed—herself a Texas native and the descendant of enslaved people brought to Texas as early as the 1820s—forges a new and profoundly truthful narrative of her home state, with implications for us all.

Poet Warrior: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393248524
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Published: W. W. Norton & Company - September 7th, 2021

The winner in Memoir/Biography. Joy Harjo, the first Native American to serve as U.S. poet laureate, invites us to travel along the heartaches, losses, and humble realizations of her "poet-warrior" road. A musical, kaleidoscopic, and wise follow-up to Crazy BravePoet Warrior reveals how Harjo came to write poetry of compassion and healing, poetry with the power to unearth the truth and demand justice.

Earth Medicines: Ancestral Wisdom, Healing Recipes, and Wellness Rituals from a Curandera Cover Image
ISBN: 9781611808438
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Published: Roost Books - November 2nd, 2021

The winner in the Eating the West category. An accessible guide to time-honored Indigenous wisdom, healing recipes, and wellness rituals for modern life from an experienced curandera.
In Earth Medicines, Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz, a curandera (or traditional healer) who is a Xicana with Tewa ancestry, combines Indigenous wisdom from many traditions with the power of the four elements. This modern guide is designed to support readers on their path to wellness with lifestyle practices and recipes perfected by Ruiz in her twenty-five years of training and working as a curandera. Ruiz teaches readers to be their own healers by discovering their own ancestral practices and cultivating a personal connection to the elements.
These healing recipes and rituals draw on the power of Water, Air, Earth, and Fire—a reminder that the natural elements are the origins of everything and can heal not only our bodies, but the mind and spirit as well.

Watercress Cover Image
By Andrea Wang, Jason Chin (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780823446247
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Published: Neal Porter Books - March 30th, 2021

The Children's Picture Book winner. Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl's parents stop suddenly when they spot watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. Grabbing an old paper bag and some rusty scissors, the whole family wades into the muck to collect as much of the muddy, snail covered watercress as they can.
At first, she's embarrassed. Why can't her family get food from the grocery store? But when her mother shares a story of her family's time in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress.
Andrea Wang tells a moving autobiographical story of a child of immigrants discovering and connecting with her heritage, illustrated by award winning author and artist Jason Chin, working in an entirely new style, inspired by Chinese painting techniques. An author's note in the back shares Andrea's childhood experience with her parents.

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062869944
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Published: Heartdrum - February 9th, 2021

The winner for Young Readers. Edited by award-winning and bestselling author Cynthia Leitich Smith, this collection of intersecting stories by both new and veteran Native writers bursts with hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride.

A Snake Falls to Earth Cover Image
ISBN: 9781646140923
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Published: Levine Querido - November 23rd, 2021

The winner for Young Adults. A Snake Falls to Earth is a breathtaking work of Indigenous futurism. Darcie Little Badger draws on traditional Lipan Apache storytelling structure to weave another unforgettable tale of monsters, magic, and family. It is not to be missed.