Visual arts

Florida Book Awards celebrate diverse literature

Florida has been in the news lately for controversy about banning books in some school districts. But there’s a new book list that celebrates Florida books by diverse authors, about diverse subject matter: the 2021 Florida Book Awards.

Tampa Bay area authors scored several medals this year. Sweeping the poetry category were Eckerd College assistant professor Gloria Muñoz, who won the gold for her powerful bilingual collection danzirly† University of South Florida assistant professor Julia Koets, taking silver for her book Pine† and John Davis Jr., a local teacher whose book The Places That Hold won the bronze.

In the younger children’s literature category, St. Petersburg author Moira Rose Donohue won the silver medal for Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drumsand Brandon writer Rob Sanders took the bronze for Stitch by Stitch: Cleve Jones and the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

The gold medal for popular fiction went to Noel Zamot of Tarpon Springs for his psychological thriller The Archer’s Thread

Les Standiford, who won the gold medal in the general nonfiction category for Battle for the Big Top: PT Barnum, James Bailey, John Ringling and the Death-Defying Saga of the American Circusisn’t a Tampa Bay area resident but has a significant local literary tie: He’s the director of Eckerd College’s Writers in Paradise conference.

Although some of the winners are best known to Florida readers, some are famous well beyond the Sunshine State, such as Lauren Groff, a Gainesville resident, who won the gold medal for fiction for her compelling novel Matrix

Related: Read a review of Lauren Groff’s “Matrix.”

Established in 2006, the Florida Book Awards honor and celebrate “the literature by Florida authors and books about Florida published in the previous year,” according to the organization’s website.

The awards program is coordinated by the Florida State University Libraries and co-sponsored by a group of Florida-based literary organizations.

The awards have been given in 11 categories. For each category, a panel of three judges may name up to three winners. The authors must be Florida residents, except in the Florida nonfiction and visual arts categories, where the subject matter must focus on Florida.

For information about the awards, go to

Traditionally, the awards are presented to all winners at a banquet in Tallahassee in April.

Here are the winners of the 2021 Florida Book Awards.

Young children’s literature

gold: Isabel and Her Colores Go to School by Alexandra Alessandric

silver: Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums by Moira Rose Donohue

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bronze: Stitch by Stitch: Cleve Jones and the AIDS Memorial Quilt by Rob Sanders

Older children’s literature

gold: Concealed by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

silver: Wild River by Rodman Philbrick

bronze: Golden Gate by James Pontic

Young adult literature

gold: Roxy by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

General fiction

gold: Matrix by Lauren Groff

silver: Infinite Country by Patricia Engels

bronze: Milk Blood Heat by Daniel W. Moniz

Popular fiction

gold: The Archer’s Thread by Noel Zamot

silver: blowback by Al Pessin

bronze: A Killer’s Daughter by Jenna Kernan


gold: danzirly by Gloria Munoz

silver: Pine by Julia Koets

bronze: The Places That Hold by John Davis Jr.

Florida nonfiction

gold: The Swamp Peddlers: How Lot Sellers, Land Scammers, and Retirees Built Modern Florida and Transformed the American Dream by Jason Vuic

silver: Father James Page: An Enslaved Preacher’s Climb to Freedom by Larry Eugene Rivers

bronze: The Nine Lives of Florida’s Famous Marco Key Cat by Austin J. Bell

General non-fiction

gold: Battle for the Big Top: PT Barnum, James Bailey, John Ringling and the Death-Defying Saga of the American Circus by Les Standiford

silver: Race, Crime, and Policing in the Jim Crow South: African Americans and Law Enforcement in Birmingham, Memphis, and New Orleans, 1920-1945 by Brandon T. Jett

bronze: The Princess Spy by Larry Loftis

visual arts

gold: The Art of Birds: Grace and Motion in the Wild by Jim Miller

Spanish language

gold: Vacaciones sin hotel: Antología se autores del Sur de la Florida by Hernán Vera Alvarez et al.

silver: Etnia, raza y sexualidad en la dramaturgia femenina hispano-caribeña en los Estados Unidos by Carmen Duarte

bronze: El reino de la infancia — Memorias de mi vida en Cuba by Uva de Aragon


No award given

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