Judges have announced the winners of the 2022 ASLE Book Awards. The awards, in the categories of ecocriticism and environmental creative writing, have been given biennially to recognize excellence in the field. The 2021 awards were postponed to 2022 due to the pandemic. This year, because of the delay and the high number of excellent submissions, two winners have been chosen in each category.
Congratulations also to our short-listed authors, read more about their excellent books via this post.
Creative Book Winners:
Luz at Midnight by Marisol Cortez. Flowersong Press, 2020.
Judges commented: Marisol Cortez’s Luz at Midnight is ambitious, challenging, and essential. This novel ranges across prose, poetry, research notes, emails, and newspaper articles, blurring the boundaries of “conventional” genre in ways long overdue. Who gets to speak? How do we get to speak? This novel offers readers in and beyond the academy–who may not often see themselves or their experiences represented in environmental literature–hope and paths toward visible voice. Luz at Midnight defies imperialism both in form, as research notes become poems that become prose that reaches across time and space, and in content, as we follow a group of environmental activists in San Antonio who, like their author, bend genre and convention so that oft-silenced voices can and must be heard. Luz at Midnight shows us these silencings–and shows us how, in the face of that silencing, to keep existing and keep finding voice. No tidy conclusions in this novel, and no utopias, but Cortez’s characters model an inspiring willingness to remain. An outstanding debut prose work from whom environmental literature has much to learn.
Gut Botany by Petra Kuppers. Wayne State University Press, 2020.
Judges commented: In Petra Kuppers’s Gut Botany, body and language bloom open to bear witness to ecological, linguistic, and human wounds, grief, and healing. We are in the body in these poems, feeling the ache in a hip alongside the slippery pleasure of love—and, importantly, Gut Botany works with a body far too often silenced in environmental and contemporary literature. Kuppers shows her speaker’s existence as a “gender-non-conforming nebula,” as a person with a wheelchair, and as a survivor of assault, together with richly textured and evocative accounts of Michigan waterways and the sturgeon. Through surrealism and situationist poetry, Kuppers resists heteropatriarchy, ableism, and settler-colonialism through deep interconnection with the sentient ecologies around her. Gut Botany shows the interconnection of human and more-than-human bodies through the porous flow of water and of language. “Silica water rushes pearl kernels onto the land,” she writes, “Make yourself this place, / bones open into embrace, / my face outward, into the wind’s curvature.” Here is a book that shows what it is to inhabit a particular body, with its legacies of trauma and privilege, and to work through language—itself also a medium of trauma and privilege—in ways that acknowledge and choose respectful existence.
Sign Here if You Exist, and Other Essays by Jill Sisson Quinn. The Ohio State University Press, 2020.
Judges commented: Sign Here If You Exist is a quietly, powerfully transformative collection of essays by an author who moves with the lyric phrasing of Mary Oliver, the careful attention of Barbara Kingsolver, and the close connection to specific place of Annie Dillard. Through every essay, Quinn weaves together lyric meditation and scientific information, delighting us with the sensuous movement of the salamander even as we learn their lifecycle and habits. Quinn, in her immersive way of being a particular human in a particular environment, grounds her readers in place and with ecological relatives large and small, and in so doing, models an important ethical way of being not merely in, but with the world.
Ecocritical Book Winners:
Infrastructures of Apocalypse: American Literature and the Nuclear Complex by Jessica Hurley. University of Minnesota Press, 2020.
Judges commented: Jessica Hurley’s bracing study Infrastructures of Apocalypse examines nuclear representations that, in the author’s words, “defamiliarize the present, estranging us from the everyday world that we inhabit,” which is also a good description of what the book accomplishes. It delivers a bold challenge to doomsday rhetoric. It also deflates the fantasy of a final detonation. According to Hurley, the end is now; we are living it. Hurley exposes a world “saturated with nuclear logics” by shifting attention from the bomb to the present reality of the nuclear apocalypse as it is lived and articulated by various environmental and liberatory justice movements emerging from marginalized communities. Infrastructures of Apocalypse realigns the field of environmental humanities around nuclear narratives and delivers searing accounts of nuclear cultures past and present. It is a one-of-a-kind book that will help folks writing about and teaching a variety of environmental humanities topics.
African Ecomedia: Network Forms, Planetary Politics by Cajetan Iheka. Duke University Press, 2021.
Judges commented: Cajetan Iheka’s African Ecomedia: Network Forms, Planetary Politics foregrounds Africa’s media objects, including “oil, uranium, coltan, and banana,” as the absent presence of contemporary media studies, waste studies, and the energy humanities. The book begins and ends with a piercing analysis of the film Black Panther and discloses the centrality of African ecomedia to the workings of global capitalism, communication technology, and popular culture. Iheka’s book stands out among a growing body of environmental media studies by drawing attention to African art, history, and Black diasporic culture in making network forms—forms, Iheka argues, that are always political and extractive. It is a remarkable book, distinguished by excellent research and writing, that offers a much-needed shift in media studies and environmental criticism.
Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion by Elizabeth C. Miller. Princeton University Press, 2021.
Judges commented: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion features excellent close readings of nineteenth- and twentieth-century novels about resource mining, broadly imagined. It establishes new ways of reading canonical texts and also introduces non-canonical texts. The research and writing are lovely.
A huge thank you to our judges for these awards, who read a mountain of submissions in this process!
Creative Judges: Mildred Barya, Grant Kittrell, Lucien Darjeun Meadows, Laura Long, Anna Lena Phillips Bell
Ecocritical Judges: Bridgitte Barclay, Stephanie Bernhard, Amy Hamilton, Jeffrey Insko, Carlos Alonso Nugent, Steven Swarbrick