Nonfiction contest offers good reading opportunities

Each spring, Bibi Wein and I judge general nonfiction and memoir entries in the Adirondack Center for Writing’s literary contest.

This year’s general nonfiction entries, many of which have already been reviewed in the Enterprise, were especially strong, evidencing research, scholarship and careful organization.

In “Their Name is Wicks,” Ann C. Sayers explores the Shakers and upstate New York’s 19th century “burned over district,” while focusing on one Shaker family. Her very readable book expands our knowledge not only of the Shaker philosophy and world view, but also the context in which it flourished.

Phillip Terrie’s “Seeing the Forest” is a collection of his essays originally published in the Adirondack Explorer. Organized into four sections — People and Places, Arts and Letters, Environment and Policy, Musings and Opinions – Terrie always writes clearly and fills each column with knowledge and insight important to Adirondack readers.

“A Guide to Architecture in the Adirondacks,” by George Washington University professor Richard Longstreth, describes and explains the built environment of the Adirondacks, as well as providing short biographies of significant area architects. Offering a big picture of architecture in our region, it is also a handbook with information about homes and institutions that arouse our curiosity.

Saranac Lake’s Adam Federman’s “Fasting and Feasting,” a biography of the very influential food writer Patience Gray, delves deeply into the life of the woman who authored “Honey from the Weed.” Federman’s passion for his subject is contagious.

“Blacks in the Adirondacks: A History,” by Sally Svenson, which was chosen as the best nonfiction entry, is an extraordinary exploration of the lives of African-Americans in our area. Intelligent, thorough and well-organized, Svenson’s book is augmented by a wonderful first-person account of growing up black in Mineville. Alice Paden Green’s memoir of her life in that mining area, starting about 1950, is moving, insightful and important.

Our award for memoir went to Mary Cuffe Perez’s “Barn Stories.” The stories are brief observations about caring for horses at a Saratoga farm. Perez brings a very good eye and a poetic gift to these observations, helping the reader appreciate the place horses have in her life.

All of these book are rewarding, and it was a delight to read them. The ACW deserves kudos for supporting area writers and recognizing their work.

Nonfiction and Memoir entries

Nonfiction entries

“The Name is Wicks: One Family’s Journey Through Shaker History,” by Ann C. Sayers

“Blacks in the Adirondacks: A History,” by Sally Svenson

“Seeing the Forest,” by Philip Terrie

“A Guide to Architecture in the Adirondacks” by Richard Longstreth

“Torah for Christians,” by Skip Doyle

“Grumpy Teacher,” by Reese S. Monitor

“Fasting and Feasting,” by Adam Federman

Memoir entries

“From the Beginning,” by Mary Jo McKeon

“Best of Both Worlds,” by Kathleen Larkin

“Barn Stories,” by Mary Cuffe Perez

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