Tennessee Book Award

In partnership with the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA), Humanities Tennessee (HT) is proud to present the inaugural Tennessee Book Awards in 2024. Our state is known for its rich literary history, yet unlike many other states, Tennessee does not have an annual award recognizing excellence in Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry written by Tennessee residents.

To establish a state book award has been a goal of Humanities Tennessee for many years. We are especially thrilled to launch this new initiative in partnership with our colleagues and friends from the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Together, we will recognize Tennessee authors, support the literary community, and highlight the tremendous talent in our state.

“HT has long prioritized the literary life of Tennessee through programs like the Southern Festival of Books and Chapter16.org. The addition of the Tennessee Book Award will preserve the legacy of Tennessee writers and ensure their work is known for years to come.” ~Tim Henderson, Executive Director, Humanities Tennessee

A statewide panel of teachers, librarians, and Humanities Tennessee board members will review initial applications and select three finalists in each category. For this first year, and in years to come, three esteemed authors will serve as the finalist judges in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry respectively.

The award recipient in each category will receive a cash prize of $2,500 and be announced in conjunction with the Southern Festival of Books, Oct. 26-27, 2024. Together, HT and TSLA are committed to supporting the literary life of Tennessee writers and readers. And for HT, this initiative builds on a 50-year tradition of making public humanities programs accessible for all Tennesseans.

We look forward to celebrating the award recipients later this year!

Continue reading to learn more about our finalist judges, eligibility criteria, and the submission process.


Meet Our Finalist Judges

FICTION: Edwidge Danticat

Danticat is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection, Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist, The Farming of Bones, The Dew Breaker, Brother, I’m Dying, Create Dangerously, Claire of the Sea Light, The Art of Death, and Everything Inside, a Reese’s Book Club selection, and National Book Critics Circle Awards winner. She is also the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, Best American Essays 2011, Haiti Noir, and Haiti Noir 2.

She has written seven books for children and young adults, Anacaona, Behind the Mountains, Eight Days, The Last Mapou, Mama’s Nightingale, Untwine, My Mommy Medicine, as well as a travel narrative, After the Dance. Her memoir, Brother, I’m Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award, and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography.

She is a 2009 MacArthur fellow, a 2018 Ford Foundation “Art of Change” fellow, a United States Artists Fellow, a two-time winner of The Story Prize, the winner of the 2018 Neustadt International Prize, the 2019 St. Louis Literary Award, and the 2020 Vilcek Prize for Literature.

NON-FICTION: John Jeremiah Sullivan

Sullivan is an award-winning journalist and editor. He is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine, and the southern editor of The Paris Review. He writes for GQHarper’s Magazine, and Oxford American, and is the author of Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter’s Son (2004) and Pulphead: Essays (2011), an anthology of magazine essays.

Sullivan won a Whiting Writers’ Award, two National Magazine Awards, and the Pushcart Prize. He served on the faculty of Columbia University, Sewanee: The University of the South, and other institutions. Sullivan lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.

POETRY: George Ella Lyon

Lyon is a poet, writer, teacher, musician, storyteller and social activist with Appalachian roots and a global reach. She has published 10 poetry collections, two adult novels, six novels for young people and 34 children’s picture books, plus stories, songs, plays, scripts and memoirs.

“Where I’m From,” her 1993 poem about personal identity, has become a classroom classic, art projects across Kentucky and the nation (iamfromproject.com) and a writing prompt used by teachers around the world.

Eligibility and Submissions

The inaugural prizes will be awarded to books published in calendar year 2023. Authors must live in Tennessee to be eligible. The postmark deadline for submissions is April 15, 2024.

The submission form and additional information about criteria may be found here.

For more information, please contact Serenity Gerbman at: serenity@humtn.org