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On the Bookshelf

Montana Book Award

Montana connection primary basis for annual
Friends of the Missoula Library's  award

By: Barbara Theroux
Fact and Fiction
for Mountain West News
Feb. 21, 2013

Why a Montana Book Award?

Perhaps a better description of this article might be "Everything you wanted to know about the Montana Book Award but had no idea who to ask."

A recent press release named the winner and honor books for the 2012 Montana Book Award. The winner is The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth.

The honor books are: Fobbit by David Abrams, The Girls of No Return by Erin Saldin, Mammals of Montana by Kerry Foresman, and The Mountain and the Fathers by Joe Wilkins.

So what does this all mean? Who decides? Why does the award exist?

In 2001 the Friends of Missoula Public Library decided that Montana needed a book award in order to recognize the large number of astounding writers who live or write about the state. Honoring some of them each year brings attention to their work and their craft, attracts readers, and promotes great literature.

The award-winning book may be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, art, photography, a graphic novel, or an anthology. The winner receives a piece of art by a Montana artisan--prizes have included quilts, sculpture, a shadow box, and original paintings.

To be eligible, a title must be written or illustrated by someone who lives in Montana (at least part time), be set in Montana, or deal with Montana as a topic.

Librarians, booksellers, authors, publishers, academics and members of the public are encouraged to suggest titles for consideration. Eligible titles are circulated to a committee of readers from across the state, with a final decision meeting in early February. An award presentation and reception is held in conjunction with the Montana Library Association spring conference.

The winner of the 2012 award, emily m. danforth was born and raised in Miles City, Mont. She has an MFA in fiction from the University of Montana and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she's worked as the assistant director of the Nebraska Summer Writers Conference. She currently teaches creative writing and literature courses at Rhode Island College.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post was published by Balzar Bray and is danforth's first novel. The book is about a gay teen girl coming of age in Miles City, Montana, who is sent to a religious conversion camp to "fix" her sexuality. When Cameron Post's parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they'll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl. But that relief doesn't last, and Cam is soon forced to live with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City means blending in and leaving well enough alone, and Cam becomes an expert at both.

David Abrams served in the U.S. Army for twenty years, and was deployed to Iraq in 2005 as part of a public affairs team. He was named the Department of Defense's Military Journalist of the Year in 1994 and has received several other military commendations. His short stories have appeared in Esquire, Narrative, Salamander, and other literary magazines. He lives in Butte, Mont.

Fobbit was published by Grove/Atlantic and is his first novel. The Fobbits of the title are U.S. Army support personnel, stationed at Baghdad's enclave of desk jobs: Forward Operating Base Triumph. Some of the soldiers, like Lt. Col. Vic Duret, are good officers pushed to the brink. Others, like Capt. Abe Shrinkle, are indecisive blowhards. But the soul of the book is Staff Sgt. Chance Gooding Jr., a public relations NCO who spends his days crafting excruciating press releases and fending off a growing sense of moral bankruptcy.


Erin Saldin grew up in Idaho and went on her first backpacking trip in the Frank Church Wilderness at age fourteen. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and the Best New American Voices series, as well as multiple literary magazines.

She has an MFA from the University of Montana and now teaches creative writing at the University of Montana-Missoula. She and her husband are expecting their first child this April, which may cause her to miss the presentation. The Girls of No Return was published by Scholastic and is her first novel.

The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area stretches across two million acres in northern Idaho. In its heart sits the Alice Marshall School, where 50 teenage girls come to escape their histories and themselves. Lida Wallace has tried to negate herself in every way possible. At Alice Marshall, she meets Elsa, a fierce native Idahoan; Jules, who seems too healthy to belong at the school; and Gia, whose glamour entrances the entire camp. As the girls prepare for a wilderness trek, Lida is both thrilled and terrified to be chosen as Gia's friend. But everyone has their secrets--their "Things" they try to protect; and when those come out, the knives do as well.

After more than 17 years of teaching at the University of Montana and conducting field research throughout the state, Kerry Foresman is a recognized expert on the 108 mammalian species populating the region from Glacier National Park to Yellowstone National Park. The Mammals of Montana was published by Mountain Press and is the second highly revised edition of Foresman's Wild Mammals of Montana originally published by the American Society of Mammalogists in 2001.

This second edition contains more than 500 color photographs, many by renowned wildlife photographer Alex Badyaev. Scattered throughout the species descriptions are interesting and curious facts about these wild creatures. Learn which shrew is venomous, how the pika survives winter in its alpine habitat without hibernating, and what animal squeezes through vole tunnels in search of dinner.

Foresman also covers the reintroduction efforts to save Montana species, such as the black-footed ferret and swift fox, from extinction, and he cautions how climate change may push others, such as the northern bog lemming and wolverine, to the brink.

Joe Wilkins grew up in eastern Montana, attended Gonzaga University and has an MFA from the University of Idaho. He now lives with his wife, son and daughter in Forest City, Iowa, where he teaches at Waldorf College.

He is the author of two collections of poems, Notes from the Journey Westward, winner of the 17th Annual White Pine Press Prize in Poetry, and Killing the Murnion Dogs, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize and the High Plains Book Award.

The Mountain and the Fathers was published by Counterpoint Press. This memoir explores the life of boys and men in the unforgiving, harsh world north of the Bull Mountains of eastern Montana in a drought afflicted area called the Big Dry, a land that chews up old and young alike.

Joe Wilkins was born into this world, raised by a young mother and elderly grandfather following the untimely death of his father. That early loss stretches out across the Big Dry, and Wilkins uses his own story and those of the young boys and men growing up around him to examine the violence, confusion, and rural poverty found in this distinctly American landscape.

Barbara Theroux is the manager of Fact & Fiction, now part of the Bookstore at the University of Montana.

Montana Book Award winner

Past winners include:

  • 2002--Diane Smith for Pictures from an Expedition
  • 2003--Mary Murphy for Hope in Hard Times
  • 2004--Marcus Stephens for Useful Girl
  • 2005--Douglas Smith and Gary Ferguson for Decade of the Wolf
  • 2006--Kirby Larson for Hattie Big Sky
  • 2007--Deirdre McNamer for Red Rover
  • 2008--Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith for Full-Court Quest
  • 2009--Jamie Ford for Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
  • 2010--Ruth McLaughlin for Bound Like Grass
  • 2011--Kate Davis for Raptors of the West

To learn more about the Montana Book Award, the winners, the honor books and artwork presented to the winning authors, visit the website



"N o one is better suited to look after Utah's interests than the people who live and work in Utah. The [Obama] administration asked the state to come up with a plan to protect the bird. Utah did. It was a good plan. The administration rejected it for its own flawed plan."

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, applauding Utah's decision to sue the federal government to invalidate land-use plans in the Beehive State put in place to protect sage grouse and its habitat.
- Salt Lake Tribune

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