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42nd Annual Northern California Book Awards

Celebrating books published by Northern California authors and California literary translators in 2022

Saturday, September 30, 2023 • 2:00 pm PDT

Reception follows

press release
Celebrate Northern California's vibrant literary scene on Saturday, September 30, 2023, 2:00 pm Pacific Time, when the 42nd annual Northern California Book Awards will recognize the best published works of 2022 by Northern California authors and California literary translators. Reviewers and editors—members of Northern California Book Reviewers—select the awards. A reception at the library will follow the ceremony. The event is free and open to the public.

The NCBAs are presented by Northern California Book Reviewers, Poetry Flash, and the San Francisco Public Library, with our community partners The Booksmith, Mechanics' Institute Library and Women's National Book Association-San Francisco Chapter.

California Translation Awards in Poetry and Prose will honor works of translation by literary translators in California.

Nominated books will be available for purchase at the event. The winning book in each category will be announced in-person at the awards ceremony. The NCBR Annual Recommended Reading List, all of the nominated books, will be celebrated at the ceremony.

For more information:, 510.525-5476, or cell-text 510.612.3958.

2023 Awards Program


Brenda Hillman. Photo by Robert Hass.

Brenda Hillman
Poet, Activist, Educator

Brenda Hillman brings passion and love to everything she does, and she does a lot, as writer, teacher, editor, and activist. A poet first and completely, she's published eleven books of poetry, including Bright Existence, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Practical Water, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry. Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire received the Griffin Poetry Prize and Extra Hidden Life, among the Days received the Northern California Book Award for Poetry. Her newest collection is In a Few Minutes Before Later (). As throughout her career, and deepening through time, she's experimental, fully present to the work, and even at her most mournful or troubled a poet of radiant play. An activist, she's pushed steadily for social and environmental justice. As an editor, she worked with Patricia Dienstfrey to publish The Grand Permission: New Writings on Poetics and Motherhood, and with Helen Hillman, she translated At Your Feet by Ana Cristina Cesar. Her own work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. Hillman's awards include the 2012 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the 2005 William Carlos Williams Prize for poetry, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim Foundation. A Chancellor Emerita of the Academy of American Poets, she is Professor Emerita of Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California, where she was recently named Professor of the Year.


Litquake, San Francisco's Literary Festival (

Litquake has become a cornerstone of our cultural life. Presenting readings and events at hundreds of Bay Area venues, almost all of us have been part of it in one way or another. Truly a groundbreaker, Litquake, founded in 1999 by Jane Ganahl and Jack Boulware, has, at last count, hosted 10,500 authors for 275,000 attendees, and distributed 12,000 free books to San Francisco schoolchildren. In its lively celebration of San Francisco's contemporary literary scene, Litquake seeks to foster an interest in literature, perpetuate literary community, and provide a forum for Bay Area writing. The award was accepted by Norah Piehl, the brand-new Executive Director.


Illustrated Black History: Honoring the Iconic and the Unseen, George McCalman, HarperOne

This year's Northern California Book Reviewers Recognition Award goes to Illustrated Black History: Honoring the Iconic and the Unseen, by George McCalman, with April Reynolds, an illustrated guide to Black history pioneers.


Martian: The Saint of Loneliness, James Cagney, Nomadic Press ()
Of Mineral, Tiff Dressen, Nightboat Books ()
Customs: Poems, Solmaz Sharif, Graywolf Press () WINNER
Open Pit, Jose Antonio Villarán, Counterpath Press ()
As She Appears, Shelley Wong, YesYes Books ()


If I Survive You, Jonathan Escoffery, MCD ()
Forbidden City, Vanessa Hua, Ballantine Books ()
Divine Madness, Lynne Kaufman, Tailwinds Press ()
What We Fed to the Manticore, Talia Lakshmi Kolluri, Tin House ()
Nightcrawling, Leila Mottley, Knopf () WINNER


Spy Daughter, Queer Girl: In Search of Truth and Acceptance in a Family of Secrets, Leslie Absher, Latah Press ()
How to Read Now: Essays, Elaine Castillo, Viking ()
The Man Who Could Move Clouds: A Memoir, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Doubleday ()
Creativity: Where Poems Begin, Mary Mackey, Marsh Hawk Press ()
Year of the Tiger: An Activist's Life, Alice Wong, Vintage () WINNER


Captain of Her Soul: The Life of Marion Davies, Lara Gabrielle, University of California Press ()
American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy's Forgotten Crisis, Adam Hochschild, Mariner Books ()
Wise Gals: The Spies Who Built the CIA and Changed the Future of Espionage, Nathalia Holt, G.P. Putnam's Sons ()
Listen, World! How the Intrepid Elsie Robinson Became America's Most-Read Woman, Julia Scheeres and Allison Gilbert, Seal Press () WINNER
Who Killed Jane Stanford? A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits and the Birth of a University, Richard White, W.W. Norton & Company ()


California Translation in Poetry
Fiat Lux, Paula Abramo, translated from the Spanish by Dick Cluster, Flowersong Press ()
It Must Be a Misunderstanding, Coral Bracho, translated from the Spanish by Forrest Gander, New Directions ()
A Summer Day in the Company of Ghosts, Wang Yin, translated from the Chinese by Andrea Lingenfelter, NYRB Poets () WINNER

California Translation in Prose
The Old Woman with the Knife, Gu Byeong-mo, translated from the Korean by Chi-Young Kim, Hanover Square Press/HarperCollins ()
The Performance, Claudia Petrucci, translated from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel, World Editions () WINNER


Younger Readers
Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas, Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Loveis Wise, HarperCollins () WINNER
Eighteen Vats of Water, Ji-Li Jiang, illustrated by Nadia Hsieh, Creston Books ()
Listen to the Language of the Trees: A story of how forests communicate underground, Tera Kelley, illustrated by Marie Hermansson, Dawn Publications ()

Middle Grade
Undercover Latina, Aya de León, Candlewick Press () WINNER
Wave, Diana Farid, illustrated by Kris Goto, Cameron Kids ()
Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams's Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration, Elizabeth Partridge, illustrated by Lauren Tamaki, Chronicle Books ()

Young Adult
No Stopping Us Now, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, Three Rooms Press ()
Self-Made Boys, Anna-Marie McLemore, Feiwel & Friends ()
Mattie and the Machine, Lynn Ng Quezon, Santa Monica Press ()
All My Rage, Sabaa Tahir, Razorbill () WINNER

History of the Northern California Book Awards
Since 1981, the Northern California Book Reviewers, a volunteer group of book reviewers and book review editors, have honored the work of Northern California authors. One of the group's founders was Fred Cody, proprietor of the famed independent bookstore in Berkeley. The NCBR created an award in his name to honor a lifetime of achievements and distinguished service to the literary community. The Fred Cody Award for lifetime achievement is presented every year to a member of the literary community. Previous recipients include Isabel Allende, Juan Felipe Herrera, Daniel Ellsberg, Sandra M. Gilbert, Jack Hirschman, Judy Grahn, Susan Griffin, Willis Barnstone, Adam Hochschild, Kay Ryan, Michael Pollan, Al Young, Andrew Hoyem, Diane di Prima, Orville Schell, Philip Levine, Ronald Takaki, Francisco X. Alarcón, Carolyn Kizer, Ishmael Reed, Maxine Hong Kingston, Robert Hass, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Malcolm Margolin, Adrienne Rich, Wallace Stegner, Kay Boyle, William Everson, Alice Walker, Gary Snyder, Jessica Mitford, Tillie Olsen, M.F.K. Fisher, Robert Duncan, Nancy J. Peters, and Tamim Ansary.

NCBA Guidelines and Information:

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