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Wisconsin Literary Awards

The WLA Literary Award is presented at each annual conference of the Wisconsin Library Association for literary achievement by a Wisconsin author.  The award is given for a single publication, fiction or nonfiction, copyrighted in the year prior to the giving of the award.  Authors must be a person who was born in Wisconsin, currently living in Wisconsin, or lived in the state for a significant length of time.  

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Cover of The Far Field

2020 winner

Living back home in Bangalore after attending university, Shalini is adrift since her mother's recent death. When her father encourages her to come up with some sort of plan, she surprises even herself with a ready response: in fact, she's planning a trip to Kashmir. Secretly, she hopes to find a friend of her mother's whom she hasn't seen in years, a traveling salesman named Bashir Ahmed who stopped visiting when the political unrest in his region took too great a toll on him and his family. On her travels north, Shalini is struck repeatedly by how ill-prepared she was for such a journey, and by how little she wants it to end. Alternating chapters address Shalini's time in Kashmir, where she is introduced to others' astonishing struggles—and welcomed into their care—in a way she's never before experienced; and flash back to her childhood, unraveling the mysteries of her sharp-edged, dearly beloved mother and the man Shalini has crossed a country to find. Available to download: eBook Audio --

Cover of The Immortalists

2019 Winner

The Immortalists follows the lives of four siblings living in New York’s Lower East Side in 1969. Drawn to a mystic woman who claims to divine the date of one’s death, the Gold children learn their futures. The prophecies hang over the Gold family for the next forty years as they grapple with choices over fate, science versus nurture and what they owe to themselves and each other. --from

Cover of The Death and Life of the

2018 Winner

The Great Lakes―Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Superior―hold 20 percent of the world’s supply of surface fresh water and provide sustenance, work and recreation for tens of millions of Americans. But they are under threat as never before, and their problems are spreading across the continent. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes is a compulsively readable portrait of an ecological catastrophe happening right before our eyes, blending the epic story of the lakes with an examination of the perils they face and the ways we can restore and preserve them for generations to come.--

Cover of The Drifter

2017 Winner

Nicholas Petrie’s debut novel is an exciting thriller that introduces Peter Ash, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, who comes home from the wars with post-traumatic stress and a mission to help a Marine friend’s widow rebuild an old porch at her home. What he finds under there, a mean ugly dog and a suitcase full of cash and explosives, sends him on an adventure through the city of Milwaukee. Petrie combines the usual elements of a suspense mystery novel with insightful reflections on how returning veterans cope with fitting in again to “normal” society.
~ from

Cover of It's What I Do:  A Photogr

2016 Winner

[It's What I Do:  A Photographer's Life of Love and War] offers many thrilling tales, addressing the risks and nomadic lifestyle inherent to a combat photographer’s career. Readers will gain a deeper appreciation of how photographers capture images that tell stories without words. This book is recommended to anyone searching for a riveting read, one that challenges our views of other cultures, offers compelling war reporting and inspires with a story of overcoming great obstacles to further one’s life passion.  --

Cover of Shotgun Lovesongs

2015 Winner

Shotgun Lovesongs is, in many ways, a quiet novel. The reader is allowed to sit with the characters, and to be moved by their emotions and their bonds of love and friendship.  While the sense of place is very strong, it still relates to most rural communities (and is therefore relatable for many readers). The Awards Committee appreciated the characters’ flaws and depth and the novel’s multiple points of view, each adding another layer to the story. Mr. Butler’s excellent descriptions bring both the setting and the people into focus for readers. This is a novel that lingers in the readers’ mind, with big thematic moments but not artificial melodrama.  --

Cover of Let Him Go

2014 Winner

Let Him Go is the story of George and Margaret Blackledge living in 1951 North Dakota. They’ve lost their only son and now their 4-year-old grandson has been taken away as well. Margaret is determined to get him back and George, who is just about done with life, nevertheless does what he can to help her. “Watson is the master of spare prose. Let Him Go is quietly riveting as Watson explores just what’s worth fighting for and the sacrifices people are willing to make.” said Jane Jorgenson, Chair of the Literary Awards Committee.--

Cover of Close Is Fine:  Stories

2013 Winner

Eliot Treichel’s debut short story collection showcases life’s private reflections—big and small—that shape and define individuals. Though the setting is small-town Wisconsin, the emptiness of this rough, lonely expanse feels universal. Anyone who has yearned to ease the ache of a fading relationship will be able to connect to Treichel’s expertly captured characters and their plights of family, fidelity and friendship.--

Cover of The Art of Fielding

2012 Winner

In his debut novel, The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach examines the lives of 5 people and the ways in which their paths intersect at the fictional Westish College in Wisconsin. Henry Skrimshander is recruited to play by sophomore Mike Schwartz. Through Schwartz’s intervention, Henry is admitted late and finds housing with Owen, another star on the team. Schwartz and Owen take Henry under their wing to help him adjust to the world of academia.  Guert Affenlight, the college president, finds himself falling helplessly in love after what seems a lifetime alone as a single parent to his daughter Pella. Pella, meanwhile, shows up at Westish to try to figure out her own future. When Henry commits an unlikely error during a game, it seems the lives of all of these characters begin to spin out of control.  Not really about baseball, this story is more about perfection and failure, heartbreak and doubt, and how we find meaning in our lives. These characters will stay with the reader long after the last page.

Cover of Burned:  A Memoir

2011 Winner

Cover of What It Is

2009 Winner

Cover of Truck:  A Love Story

2007 Winner

Cover of The Turtle Warrior
Mary Relindes

2005 Winner

Cover of Orchard

2004 Winner

Cover of The Marcy Stories

2002 Winner

Cover of I Loved You All

2001 Winner

Cover of The Great Arizona Orphan A

2000 Winner

Cover of Hunger:  A Novella and Sto
Lan Samantha

1999 Winner

Cover of Self Storage and Other Sto
Mary Helen

1998 Winner

Cover of Sister
A. Manette

1997 Winner

Cover of Time's Fancy

1995 Winner

Cover of Montana 1948

1994 Winner

Cover of The Imposter

1992 Winner

Cover of The Island Within

1990 Winner

Cover of The Book of Ruth

1989 Winner

Cover of Suite for Calliope

1988 Winner

Cover of The Autobiography of Henry

1987 Winner

Cover of Remembering the Wilderness

1984 Winner

Cover of Pastorale

1983 Winner


1982 Winner


1981 Winner

Cover of The Road From Home

1980 Winner

Cover of The Westing Game

1979 Winner

Reid A Bryson and
Thomas J. Murray

1978 Winner

Cover of Homeland Elegies

Winner 2021

A deeply personal work about identity and belonging in a nation coming apart at the seams, Homeland Elegies blends fact and fiction to tell an epic story of longing and dispossession in the world that 9/11 made. Part family drama, part social essay, part picaresque novel, at its heart it is the story of a father, a son, and the country they both call home. Available to download: eBook Audio --