The Second Annual Jenfolk Book Awards
On behalf of all Jenkind, I bestow flowers upon books I loved this year and look ahead to some publications on the horizon for next year.
Some people go to fortune tellers, astrologers, or meteorologists to learn about the future; I on the other hand, enjoy the abundant glimpses into what to expect in the years to come that are provided by medical exams.
I visited the optometrist yesterday, and the doctor made the almost-certain-to-come-true prediction that in the next few years, I would be needing bifocal correction. Was it Jane Austen who wrote, “It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of two eyes and several decades of life must be in want of reading glasses”? Well, she should have, anyway.
In the middle of the exam, the doctor asked me, “What day is it?”
I perked up, thinking this was a chance to prove I had not yet begun to succumb to dementia. But I paused, deciding, wait, this isn’t the right doctor for that.
“It’s like December 8th, right?” he said.
Given that I’d arrived at the appointment on the correct date, I knew this one. “No, it’s December 12th.”
“What?” he asked, alarmed. “I better start Christmas shopping.”
But, those of you who consult astrologers instead of doctors for prognostications will know that my optometrist is now in a pickle. Mercury just went into retrograde, so good luck on getting those packages you order delivered on time, buddy.
However, there is a solution. That is to head to the nearest local bookstore, and buy books for presents, an action that will almost certainly not be interfered with by the fates. But what to buy? I’m here for you. The three of you who have been Tumbleweed subscribers since last December will recall the Jenfolk Book Awards I introduced last year (or maybe you won’t recall this, depending on what your doctors have been foretelling about your future).
To catch up the other two subscribers who have joined since then: I unilaterally decided it was high time for a book award to be bestowed on behalf of all Jenkind, a community which is estimated to number 1.5 million in America alone. So now I will speak for all Jens, including Lopez, Coolidge, Garner, Hudson, and Aniston, and let you know some of my favorite books I read this year. Many of them were not published this year, because that’s the way most of us Jens read—a little bit behind due to all the massive amounts of Jennery we need to keep up with at all times. I’ve read fifty books so far this year. Out of those, which books were the most pleasing to all Jenmanity? Read on.
Absolutely Kickass Novels That Made Me Laugh and Rearranged My Brain
Fight Night (2021) by Miriam Toews
The Rabbit Hutch (2022) by Tess Gunty
Funny, Moving Debut Novel Involving an Insane Russian Mother and Her Biracial Daughter and Their Messy Lives in a California Trailer Park
A Country You Can Leave (2023) by Asale Angel-Adjani
Best Novel for Admirers of Old-Fashioned Prose and Tricksey, Brilliant Structural Moves
Trust (2022) by Hernan Diaz
Books Written by My Friends That Are Just as Wonderful as They Are
White Horse (2022) by Erika T. Wurth
Small World (2022) by Jonathan Evison
Novel Most Likely to Win Awards from Jens and Non Jens Alike
Short Story Collection That Made Jens Want to Shout, “Why Don’t We Stop All This Nonsense Immediately and Just Read A Bunch of Stories?”
For the second year, Jenkind has declared multiple winners! Short stories are like bonbons to us.
If I Survive You (2022) by Jonathan Escofferey
Night of the Living Rez (2022) by Morgan Talty
Site Fidelity (2021) by Claire Boyles
The Consequences (2022) by Manuel Muñoz
And I Guess I, a Lifelong Fraidy Cat, Am Reading Horror Now?
Night of Screams: Latino Horror Stories (2023) edited by Richard Z. Santos
Gorgeous, Heartbreaking, Life-Affirming Debut Memoir
Remedies for Sorrow (2023) by Megan Nix (Look for my review next year!)
Best Denver Book I Read This Year
The Happenings & Links Portion of The Tumbleweed
Like all creatures who hibernate, I don’t generally schedule appearances between Saturnalia and Lupercalia, and neither should you. But, I do have one publication to look back on, and some exciting happenings to look forward to.
Looking back, the publication I was most proud of this year was my essay, “Three Wishes,” about how my grandparents lost their farm during the 1980s farm crisis. I am grateful to Hunger Mountain for publishing it.
Looking forward, I was delighted to participate as a judge for the Southwest Books of the Year, a list that has been going strong for over forty years! Our 2024 picks for the best Southwest reads will be up on the Pima County Public Library website on January 15, and several of the honorees will be appearing at the Tucson Festival of Books in March.
Looking forward, I am eager to share an anthology I contributed to, We Can See Into Another Place: Mile-High Writers on Social Justice, that will be published by BookBar Press in April 2024!
And I’m also going to be a part of another amazing anthology with the theme of narrative medicine sponsored by Denver Health. Local writers have teamed up with people who have experienced trauma to tell their stories, and the book will be published in the spring. I am so glad I got the chance to meet Grayson Fox, a young man who was paralyzed three years ago at age 17, who is now being recruited to play wheelchair tennis at colleges across the country.