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Spokane writers Kate Lebo, Kathryn Smith are finalists for the Washington State Book Awards

Aug. 22, 2022 Updated Tue., Aug. 23, 2022 at 9:07 p.m.

Kate Lebo’s well-regarded “The Book of Difficult Fruit” is receiving even more regard.

Last week her collection of essays was announced as the selection for this year’s Spokane Is Reading program; now it’s a finalist for a Washington State Book Award.

Lebo is the co-creator of literary event Pie & Whiskey, co-editor of a compilation featuring works from the event, and author of the cookbooks “Pie School” and “A Commonplace Book of Pie.” “The Book of Difficult Fruit,” released in April 2021 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, focuses on 26 “tart, tender and unruly” fruits. She is nominated in the creative nonfiction category along with “Readying to Rise: Essays” by Marcus Harrison Green, “Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit” by Lyanda Lynn Haupt, “We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration” written by Frank Abe and Tamiko Nimura, and “White Magic: Essays” by Elissa Washuta, enrolled member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.

Lebo is not the only Spokane writer to be named a finalist for a state book award. Kathryn Smith’s poetry collection “Self-Portrait with Cephalopod” from Milkweed Editions is up for the poetry prize, along with “Broken by Water: Salish Sea Years” by Gary Thompson, “Dialogues with Rising Tides” by Kelli Russell Agodon, “More American” by Sharon Hashimoto, and “Stray Birds” by Andrew Robin.

“Self Portrait with Cephalopod” is Smith’s second collection, following “Book of Exodus” from Scablands Books and the chapbook “Chosen Companions of the Goblin,” winner of the 2018 Open Country Press Chapbook Contest.

The general nonfiction category features two titles with Eastern Washington connections. Trevor James Bond of Pullman is nominated for “Coming Home to Nez Perce Country: The Niimiipuu Campaign to Repatriate Their Exploited Heritage,” from Washington State University Press, while Blaine Harden was nominated for “Murder at the Mission: A Frontier Killing, Its Legacy of Lies, and the Taking of the American West” from Penguin Books, which centers on the Whitman massacre in Walla Walla.

The Washington State Book Awards are presented by the Washington Center for the Book in partnership with the Seattle Public Library and honor outstanding books published by Washington authors in 2021. According to a news release, the awards are given to current Washington residents based on a work’s merit, “lasting importance and overall quality.”

For the 2022 book awards, judges read and evaluated 243 books. In addition to the creative nonfiction, poetry and general nonfiction categories, awards are issued for fiction, biography/memoir, picture books, young readers and young adult fiction. Previous Spokane winners of the state book award include Jess Walter, Shawn Vestal, Sharma Shields, Stephanie Oakes, Tod Marshall and Bruce Holbert.

Washington State Book Award winners will be announced. Sept. 13.

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