The American Library Association (ALA) has selected The Berry Pickers (Catapult) by Amanda Peters as the winner of the 2024 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux) by Roxanna Asgarian as the winner for Excellence in Nonfiction.
The selections were announced during ALA’s 2024 LibLearnX conference in Baltimore January 20 at the Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) Book and Media Awards event, sponsored by NoveList.
In The Berry Pickers, an Indigenous Mi’kmaq family is picking summer blueberries in 1962 Maine when their youngest child, 4-year-old Ruthie, disappears. Her 6-year-old brother, Joe, saw her last. Told in alternating, first-person chapters from Joe and a narrator named Norma, this novel follows the painful reverberations of Ruthie’s disappearance across five decades. While little is easy for Peters’ characters, there is hope for all of them in the end.
We Were Once a Family investigates a 2018 tragedy in which two women deliberately drove themselves and their six children off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean. While there was considerable speculation about the parents, who were married and white, the media paid little attention to the six Black children, who had been adopted from two different families. Investigative reporter Asgarian’s years of work getting to know the children’s birth families uncovered a web of intergenerational poverty, violence, and wrenching separations. She exposes the calamities that occurred and the ongoing failings of the foster system.
“The committee is so excited for the medalists to see their outstanding creations celebrated on such a big stage,” said Aryssa Damron, chair of the selection committee for the 2024 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence. “Amanda Peters’ stunning prose and evocative narrative enraptured us with the grief and longing of her characters. Roxanna Asgarian’s blending of journalism, narrative nonfiction, and heartbreak tears back the veil on the child removal systems in the United States. Endless thanks to my amazing committee for spending a year reading great literature, discussing deeply with each other, and selecting two outstanding books that complement each other so perfectly and represent a year of inspiring conversations.”
The other 2024 fiction finalists were Denison Avenue (ECW Press) by Christina Wong and Daniel Innes and Let Us Descend (Scribner) by Jesmyn Ward. The other nonfiction finalists were The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration (Simon & Schuster) by Jake Bittle and The Talk (Henry Holt & Company) by Darrin Bell.
Carnegie Medal winners will each receive $5,000. All the finalists will be honored and the winners presented with their medals during a celebration at San Diego Public Library during ALA’s 2024 Annual Conference and Exhibition in June.
The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, established in 2012, serve as a guide to help adults select quality reading material. They are the first single-book awards for adult books given by ALA and reflect the expert judgment and insight of library professionals and booksellers who work closely with adult readers.
The medals are made possible, in part, by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York in recognition of Andrew Carnegie’s deep belief in the power of books and learning to change the world. ALA’s Booklist and RUSA are cosponsors.