Bojan Louis, assistant professor of English and American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona, was recently awarded an acclaimed Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award. His book, Sinking Bell: Stories (Graywolf Press 2022), is a collection of short stories set in northern Arizona, portraying “violent collisions of love, cultures, and racism.”
The American Book Awards strive to recognize outstanding writing achievement from America’s diverse literary community. The award winners range from well-known and established writers to under-recognized authors and first works.
In his August 11 interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books, Louis explained that the people in his stories were created from his community — past and present.
“These characters are amalgamations of the people I’ve known, my friends and family, and what I recall of their stories … I tell my students that they should know everything about their main characters and secondary characters, the history of the places they inhabit, the origins and the power of the objects and things that populate a story.”
Louis is Diné of the Naakai dine’é, born for the Áshííhí. He is the author of the poetry collection Currents (BkMk Press 2017), and the nonfiction chapbook Troubleshooting Silence in Arizona (The Guillotine Series 2012).
Louis’ work can also be found in Shapes of Native Nonfiction: Collected Essays by Contemporary Writers, When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, Native Voices Anthology, and The Diné Reader: An Anthology of Navajo Literature. His honors include a MacDowell Fellowship and the 2018 American Book Award.
This is the second award of 2023 for Louis. Earlier this year, he was awarded the Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts.
“Bojan Louis joins an exclusive group of winners over the American Book Awards' forty-four years that include authors Toni Morrison, Henry Louis Gates, Don Delillo, Leslie Marmon Silko, Audre Lorde, and too many more to name without fainting from awe,” said Kate Bernheimer, director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing. “But perhaps even more meaningfully, winners are chosen by other authors, and "with no categories, no nominees, and therefore no losers," as the Before Columbus Foundation has said. Its intrinsically inclusive values — there from its inception — are widely admired and too-rarely so sincerely emulated.”
The 2023 American Book Award winners will be formally recognized on Sunday, October 1, 2023, from 2:00–4:30 p.m., at the Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco, CA.