Ohioana Announces 2021 Book Award Finalists

May 14, 2021

The Ohioana Library is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2021 Ohioana Book Awards. First given in 1942, the awards are the second-oldest state literary prizes in the nation and honor outstanding works by Ohio authors and illustrators in five categories: Fiction, Poetry, Juvenile Literature, Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature, and Nonfiction. The sixth category, About Ohio or an Ohioan, may also include books written by non-Ohio authors.

Among the literary honors this year’s finalists have previously received are the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Coretta Scott King Book Award, the Newbery Medal, the Kirkus Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Cleveland Arts Prize. Five authors are finalists for their debut books. Six have previously won Ohioana Book Awards and one is a past recipient of Ohioana’s Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant for emerging writers.

Beginning June 1, Ohioana will profile all of the finalists with “30 Books, 30 Days,” a special feature on our social media in which one finalist is highlighted each day. Later in June, Ohioana will launch its sixth Readers’ Choice Award poll, allowing the public to vote online for their favorite book among the finalists.

Winners will be announced in July. The 80th anniversary Ohioana Awards ceremony will be held at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus on Thursday, October 14. The finalists are:


Martin, Lee. Yours, Jean, Dzanc Books.

McDaniel, Tiffany. Betty, Alfred A. Knopf.

Nesbit, TaraShea. Beheld, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Schultz, Connie. The Daughters of Erietown, Penguin Random House.

Sickels, Carter. The Prettiest Star, Hub City Press.


Downs, Maggie. Braver Than You Think, Counterpoint Press.

Jones, Saeed. How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir, Simon & Schuster.

Nezhukumatathil, Aimee. World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, Milkweed Editions.

Ricca, Brad. Olive the Lionheart: Lost Love, Imperial Spies, and One Woman’s Journey into the Heart of Africa, St. Martin’s Press.

Sutter, Paul M. How to Die in Space: A Journey Through Dangerous Astrophysical Phenomena, Pegasus Books.

About Ohio or an Ohioan

Backderf, Derf. Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio, Abrams Books.

Genshaft, Carole, ed. Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s House and Journals, Ohio University Press.

Giffels, David. Barnstorming Ohio to Understand America, Hachette Books.

Goldbach, Eliese Colette. Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit, Flatiron Books.

Heyman, Stephen. The Planter of Modern Life: Louis Bromfield and the Seeds of a Food Revolution, W. W. Norton & Company.


Black, Ali. If It Heals at All, Jacar Press.

Chan, Marianne. All Heathens, Sarabande Books.

Gay, Ross. Be Holding: A Poem, University of Pittsburgh Press.

Lambert, Paula J. How to See the World (Harmony), Bottom Dog Press.

Majmudar, Amit. What He Did in Solitary: Poems, Alfred A. Knopf.

Juvenile Literature

Hubbard, Rita Lorraine. Illus. by Oge Mora. The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read, Schwartz & Wade.

Metcalf, Lindsay H., Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley, eds.  Illus. by Jeannette Bradley.  No Voice Too Small, Charlesbridge Publishing.

Muth, Jon J. Addy’s Cup of Sugar: Based on a Buddhist Story of Healing, Scholastic.

Rex, Adam. On Account of the Gum, Chronicle Books.

Umrigar, Thrity. Illus. by Khoa Le. Sugar in Milk, Running Press Kids.

Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature

Creech, Sharon.  One Time, HarperCollins.

Pearsall, Shelley. Things Seen from Above, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Reynolds, Justin A.  Early Departures, Katherine Tegen Books.

Taylor, Mildred D. All the Days Past, All the Days to Come, Viking Books.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Before the Ever After, Nancy Paulsen Books.

The 2020 Ohioana Book Award Winners. Each year, our winners receive beautiful awards like these ones, which were designed by Kathryn Powers and created by Auld Crafters, INC.