Two UMass Amherst Authors Win Top Honors in 20th Annual Mass Book Awards

Ocean Vuong
Ocean Vuong

The Massachusetts Center for the Book has announced the award and honors titles in the 20th Annual Massachusetts Book Awards. The Awards recognize achievement in five categories of literature written by current residents of the Commonwealth.

Ocean Vuong of Northampton, associate professor in the MFA for Poets & Writers program at UMass Amherst, won the Fiction Award for “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.” This debut novel from Vietnamese-American poet Vuong is written as a son’s letter to his single mother, addressing their relationship and immigrant experience in a tour de force coming-of-age narrative.

Karen Skolfield of Amherst, a writing lecturer in the UMass Amherst College of Engineering, won the Poetry Award for “Battle Dress: Poems.”  A U.S. Army veteran and the current poet laureate of Northampton, Skolfield has written poems that share her experience as a female soldier, addressing physical training, mental preparation, and the effects of trauma over time.

The Massachusetts Center for the Book, chartered as the Commonwealth Affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, is a public-private partnership charged with developing, supporting and promoting cultural programming that advances the cause of books and reading and enhances the outreach potential of Massachusetts public libraries.  For more information, and the entire list of “Must-Read” titles from which the awards were made, visit  or contact