On Wednesday, January 18, I was delighted to welcome authors, advocates, and legislative colleagues to the State House to celebrate great writing. I represent that part of the Commonwealth which The New York Times has characterized as “the most author-saturated, book-cherishing, literature-celebrating place in the nation.”
And while I’m often in the State House talking about our regions’ farms, forests, and culture, it’s quite accurate to say that we also live book-centric life in the Connecticut River Valley — full of writers and booksellers, collectors and book artists, galleries and literary museums. I was grateful to have the opportunity to formally recognize some of that literary achievement during a Massachusetts Center for the Book annual awards program.
Mass Center for the Book focuses us on great writing while developing, supporting, and promoting cultural programming that advances the cause of books and reading across the Commonwealth.
We are absolutely all the better for its work and service. Thank you to Mass Center for the Book our lives are rich in transformative books and stories.
I presented three awards with House colleagues Representatives Mindy Domb and Lindsay Sabadosa:
- To Amherst poet, Karen Skolfield, whose collection Battle Dress was the award winner in poetry for 2020. Battle Dress shocks readers into empathizing with the speaker’s personal experiences as an Army Veteran while moving them to challenge the conventions of military language and instruction: why has a comparison been made between small-arms fire and mosquitoes? What questions are provoked when a play asks the audience to anticipate gunshots?
- To Northampton author Christopher Boucher who received Honors in Fiction in 2020 for Big Giant Floating Head. Simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious, Big Giant Floating Head is a dazzling account of one man’s surreal struggles with love, loss, and redemption in connected stories that playfully amuse readers while sparking our imagination.
- To Northampton-based Mike Curato whose debut graphic novel was the Award Winner in Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature for 2021. Flamer presents its story of the tumultuous years of adolescence in monochrome images punctuated by fiery bursts of color, following the growing pains and challenges that its central character, Aiden, contends with as he wrestles with the harshness of the world towards those who identify outside of expected categories. This novel expresses the range and rawness of emotion that accompany the journey from childhood to a self-discovery, validating those who find themselves on similar paths.