The eighth annual Minnesota Book Awards were held at the Minnesota History Center with Don and Arvone Fraser serving as co-hosts for the evening. Awards were presented to books in 17 categories, selected from 70 nominees. The theme of the evening was “Changing Lives” and it was illustrated in readings by four nominees. The Awards celebration culminated Publishers Week – complete with a book publishing fair which looked at new directions in 1996 such as the digital information revolution, “Marketing on the Internet and World Wide Web” and “CD-ROM and on-demand publishing.”
1. Dolly the sheep was born. She wasn’t some baaaah-oring woolen lady; Dolly was the first animal successfully cloned. It took 277 tries to clone her the first time (yes, she lives on)!
2. In 1996, there were two Minnesota Book Award winners in the Younger Children category – one for an author (Daddy Played Music for the Cows, by Maryann N. Weidt) and one for an illustrator (Ellis Island: Doorway to Freedom, illustrated by Karen Ritz).
3. The Motorola StarTAC was released. It was the first flip phone created and was marketed as a “Wearable Cellular Telephone.” It weighed .8 ounces less than iPhone 5.
4. The cities in the titles of the Fantasy & Science Fiction winner, Eagan the Unnatural, by David Prill) and finalist (Oakdale Headcrash, by Bruce Bethke) are 20 miles apart if you take I-494. The books, however, were not about those Minnesota cities.
5. 1996 was the year of the “Mount Everest Disaster,” in which eight people died in a two-day period. Seven more died later that spring. In the same year, Göran Kropp from Sweden reached the summit by himself, after bicycling to the mountain base from his homeland.
6. The University of Minnesota Press had four winning books and a finalist: Imagining Home: Writing from the Midwest, edited Mark Vinz and Thom Tammaro; Professor Wellstone Goes to Washington, by Dennis J. McGrath and Dane Smith; A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe, by Earl Nyholm; Minnesota’s Natural Heritage, by John R. Tester; and Minnesota’s Saint Croix River Valley and Anoka Sandplain, by Daniel Wovcha, Barbara C. Delaney, and Gerda E. Nordquist.
7. The Hoover Institution think tank believed global warming was nothing but “hot air” that could provide Americans with “valuable benefits” based on the fact that Americans prefer “less chilly weather” and were willing to pay big bucks for a slight temperature increase.
8. “Tell them I got up and said a few words.”
Paul Gruchow was the 1996 Non-fiction winner with his book Grass Roots: The Universe of Home. He went on to receive two more Minnesota Book Awards, for Boundary Waters: The Grace of the Wild (1998) and Worlds within a World (2000). In 2009, five years after his death, Milkweed Editions reissued his Journal of a Prairie Year.
9. The Minnesota Book Awards Novel & Short Story category had one winner and seven finalists: Ann Lundberg Grunke (winner), Jonis Agee, Anne M. Dunn, Jon Hassler, David Jaynes, Lorna Landvik, Julie Schumacher, David Treuer.
10. Binit Jua, a silver-back gorilla, demonstrated that kindness can take you places. She became world famous when a three-year-old boy fell down into the gorilla enclosure at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. Binti Jua protected the unconscious child until human rescuers could arrive.
Is climbing Mount Everest on your bucket list? Was a flip phone on your wish list in 1996? What were you reading in 1996?
Click here to check out more 1996 Minnesota Book Awards winners and finalists!