Creating a Community

The Library of Virginia’s Literary Awards are all about bringing people and books together.

jay paul

(All photographs by Jay Paul for the Library of Virginia)

Not only is the Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards celebrating 25 years, but the Library of Virginia itself is about to reach its 200th anniversary next spring. The gala was held on Saturday and showed off the incredible space that contributes so much to Virginia’s history and sense of self. Speakers from bestselling Virginia author Adriana Trigiani to James Beard Award-winning chef Michael W. Twitty talked about their experiences with books and the (obvious) role the library had in nurturing their love of literature as well as creating a community for them.

The People’s Choice Award finalists are selected by a panel of librarians and booksellers, and the winners are picked by public voters. From fiction to poetry to nonfiction and several special awards, the ceremony celebrated what makes Virginia special (food, family, history, community), and the authors shared their voices and perspectives on why the commonwealth is special to them, how it influenced their journey into and through the written word.

The 25th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards, presented by Amazon and Dominion Energy, raise critical support for the Library’s work through the Library of Virginia Foundation. 

(“Virginia is where everybody has an ancestor,” Michael W. Twitty)


The 2022 Literary Award for Nonfiction winner is Carolyn Eastman for her book The Strange Genius of Mr. O: The World of the United States’ First Forgotten Celebrity, the biography of a remarkable performer—a gaunt Scottish orator who appeared in a toga—and a story of the United States during the founding era. Eastman is a professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University and a 2022–2023 National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar.

Other nonfiction award finalists were John Woodrow Cox for Children Under Fire: An American Crisis and Caroline Janney for Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee’s Army after Appomattox.


The 2022 Poetry Award Winner is Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove for her book Playlist for the Apocalypse. In her first volume of new poems in 12 years, Dove investigates the vacillating moral compass guiding America’s, and the world’s, experiments in democracy. Dove is the Henry Hoyns Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia

Other poetry finalists were Sandra Beasley for Made to Explode and Tina Parker for Lock Her Up.


The 2022 Fiction Award winner is Jocelyn Nicole Johnson for her book My Monticello: Fiction. Set in the near future, My Monticello tells the story of a diverse group of Charlottesville neighbors fleeing violent white supremacists as well as several other short stories featuring Virginia’s landscape and people. A veteran public school art teacher, Johnson lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Other fiction award finalists were Joanna Pearson for Now You Know It All and Sheri Reynolds for The Tender Grave. Angel Khouri received an honorable mention for Between Tides

People’s Choice Awards:

are Mari K. Eder in the nonfiction category for her book The Girls Who Stepped Out of Line: Untold Stories of the Women Who Changed the Course of World War II (finalists included Catherine Baab-Muguira for Poe for Your Problems, Nathaniel Philbrick’s Travels with George) and Sadeqa Johnson in the fiction category for her book Yellow Wife: A Novel (finalist included S.A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears and The Mother Next Door by Tara Laskowski).

The Art in Literature: The Mary Lynn Kotz Award went to Erin I. Kelly and Winfred Rembert for their book Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South. The winner of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Biography, Chasing Me to My Grave tells the remarkable life story of Black American artist Winfred Rembert (1945–2021). Presented by the Library and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Art in Literature Award recognizes an outstanding book published in the previous year that is written primarily in response to a work (or works) of art while also showing the highest literary quality as a creative or scholarly work. Established in 2013, the award is named in honor of Mary Lynn Kotz, author of the award-winning biography Rauschenberg: Art and Life.

The awards also recognized Katie Couric for outstanding contributions to literature and journalism. An award-winning journalist and #1 New York Times best-selling author of her memoir, Going There, Couric is also the author of two children’s books and The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives.

Konstantin Rega
A graduate of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing MA, Konstantin’s been published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Poetry Salzburg Review,, the Republic of Consciousness Prize (etc.). He contributes to Publisher Weekly and Treblezine.
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