National Book Awards return to Concordia

Last March, we lost much as the coronavirus pandemic began to worsen across the globe. While the world may still be coping with the pandemic, we have found ways to do what we love.

The National Book Awards, hosted by the National Book Foundation, celebrate the work of dozens of authors each year. The awards encompass five categories   ̶ fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature and young people’s literature with five books selected to be finalists from each category.

In 2009, Concordia College had to postpone its National Book Awards events by a semester because of the flooding that hit the Fargo-Moorhead area. In 2020, Concordia canceled the National Book Awards events altogether because of the pandemic. 

Now, in 2021, we have found a way to safely celebrate the work of these artists once again.

Concordia is celebrating its 16 year of partnership with the National Book Foundation this year. Each year, Concordia brings in the authors of two finalists for a two-day residency on campus. 

“The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee” and “When Stars are Scattered.” | Concordia College

This year, Concordia is bringing three authors to campus. David Treuer, author of “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to Present”, along with Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, co-authors of “When Stars Are Scattered.”

The college’s virtual events will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 11 with selected readings from each of the author’s books, along with a digital conversation between authors and audience members. 

The mission of the National Book Foundation is to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture. Concordia seeks to do just that in choosing which authors to host.

Treuer is an Ojibwe Native American from the Leech Lake reservation in northern Minnesota. His book “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to Present” details Native American life from the moment many say it ended.

“The received idea of Native American history … has been that American Indian history essentially ended with the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee. Not only did one hundred fifty Sioux die at the hands of the U. S. Cavalry, the sense was, but Native civilization did as well,” says a synopsis on Penguin Random House’s website.

Treuer details the reinvention of Native American culture since then. From all of the adversity Native Americans have had to face, came a unified Native identity. Treuer’s book is “the essential, intimate story of a resilient people in a transformative era.” 

Treuer was scheduled to come to Concordia for the 2020 National Book Awards but was rescheduled to 2021.

Victoria Jamieson, the illustrator of several graphic novels, collaborated with author and refugee Omar Mohamed to create the graphic novel “When Stars Are Scattered.” This graphic novel tells the true story of Mohamed and his nonverbal brother through their 15 years in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. 

“Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings,” says a summary on Goodreads.

On Friday, authors will be a part of several masterclasses throughout campus. Various classes studied the work of these authors, and now they’ll have the chance to engage more personally with the authors. The masterclasses include topics of English writing, social work and art.

Along with masterclasses at Concordia, Jamieson and Mohamed will make an appearance at Horizon Middle School to talk with eighth graders who read their graphic novel. According to Laura Probst, Co-Director of the National Book Award at Concordia, two people who work at the middle school spent time at the same refugee camp in Kenya as Mohamed. 

The accessibility of the narrative through the graphic novel medium, combined with this local connection, made a partnership with this middle school the perfect opportunity for Jamieson and Mohamed.

The National Book Awards readings and conversations will be livestreamed on Thursday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. 

The livestream for the event can be found at: 

More information about the National Book Awards at Concordia can be found at:

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