I recently posted my experience getting to the California Book Awards but didn’t actually write about the awards themselves, which was a bit of a tease. So I’m making good now.
First off, I love the California Book Awards logo of Mark Twain atop a bear, though I know Stephen Colbert would be horrified. Some people might be surprised that Samuel Longhorn Clemens is considered a California writer by the natives of our state, but he did spend a significant amount of time here, so that seems fair to me. And FYI for you out-of-staters, the bear is our official state animal.
Although I arrived at 575 Market Street at exactly 7:00, it turns out that the Commonwealth Club is at 595 Market Street, the building I passed in a rush a few minutes earlier. (To be fair, 7s and 9s are quite similar and so easily confuse the addled brain, or at least my addled brain.) If you read my earlier post, you know that the ceremony was scheduled to begin at 6:00 anyway. Looking at the program once I arrived, I see that the reception started at 5:15, but lucky for me, there was still plenty of wine, cheese, bread, and a cornucopia of desserts left at 7:10 when I walked by the reception area on my way to a seat in the back of the room where the ceremony was being held.
I had missed the presentation of the award that I was most interested in—the silver medalist for young adult fiction, which went to Marissa Moss for A Soldier’s Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero, but I still bought the book and got it signed. I love Marissa Moss and her Amelia’s Notebook series, so she may have been the main draw for me, but half the fun going to an awards ceremony is hearing from people you don’t know. And I got to see the last half of the awards presented, which covered quite a range.
The gold medal for nonfiction went to Dr. Victoria Sweet for God’s Hotel, which focuses on the Laguna Honda Medical Center in San Francisco. (She had supervised rounds across the country at Harvard’s teaching hospital that same morning.) She spoke warmly and eloquently about her time at what sounds like a very special medical facility.
And I enjoyed hearing from the author of Masha’allah, Mariah Young, whose stories are centered in East Oakland. I always think it’s nice when cities in the Bay Area other than San Francisco get their share of attention. And since I love reading about places set in the East Bay, I bought a copy of her book and got it signed.
Both Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son (gold medal for fiction) and Jennifer Dubois’s A Partial History of Lost Causes (gold medal for first fiction) were edited by David Ebershoff at Random House. I congratulated him afterward too. I figure editors don’t get awards but also work hard to make books the best they can be, and here he had helped guide two of them to gold medals. Plus, he made the trip from New York to support his authors. I liked that. Of course he pointed out that the awards were in San Francisco and not in some Podunk town in the middle of nowhere, so it was a win/win. We already had The Orphan Master’s Son at home, but I bought A Partial History of Lost Causes and got that one signed too.
And just because it was the winner in the juvenile category, I bought The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, which I started reading on the ride home. And I love it! I’ll definitely be writing a review of it soon. Four books purchased in one night was pretty extravagant, but I held fast to my rule of only buying books for myself if I can get them signed.
Hobnobbing with award-winning authors and eating macaroons really isn’t a bad way to spend an evening.
For a full list of the winners, go to: http://www.commonwealthclub.org/node/3032