2012 Oregon Book Awards: Judge's Comments in General Nonfiction

Reminder: Friday, August 31, 2012 is the deadline to submit books for consideration for the 2013 Oregon Book Awards. The guidelines and applications can be found on Literary Arts' web site. Contact Susan Denning for more information. 

Jane Brox was the judge for the General Nonfiction category of the 2012 Oregon Book Awards. Brox's fourth book, Brilliant: TheEvolution of Artificial Light, was named one of Time’s top ten nonfiction books for 2010. She is also the author of Five Thousand Days Like This One, which was a 1999 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Here and Nowhere Else. She has been awarded grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Brunswick, Maine.

Here are Jane Brox's comments on the 2012 Oregon Book Awards finalists for the Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction:  

Sonny Montes and Mexican American Activism in Oregon by Glenn Anthony May
  Through the particular story of Mexican American activist Sonny Montes, from the 1960s to the present day, Glenn Anthony May creates a richly textured history of the Mexican American movement in Oregon. Montes’ determination and hard work, his capacity to seize opportunity and foster ideals, is a important story in and of itself. Additionally, in telling one man’s story, May also examines the plight of farm workers, the inter-generational and cultural struggles within the Mexican American community, and various approaches towards dealing with the entrenched challenges of migrant communities. In a book of remarkable range and depth, May brings an understanding of cultural movements in general to bear upon his examination. He also makes history personal, and in doing so gives his readers a thorough and engrossing examination of an evolving and maturing Mexican American culture in Oregon. 

 
Bureau of Missing Persons: Writing the Secret Lives of Fathers by Roger J. Porter

All families are complex, and families with secrets at their heart are infinitely so. In his compelling exploration and analysis of memoirs written by those whose parents’ secrets haunt their lives, Roger Porter examines both the nature of family mysteries and the desire to clarify them. Ultimately, whether the family pasts have been hidden or created, guided by fear or shame or simply the desire to forget, the writers Porter considers must not only come to terms with what can only be partially known and understood, but also with the consequences of revelation. Bureau of Missing Persons implicitly ranges farther than the particular circumstances of these writers by suggesting that our family stories, with all their inevitable mystery, are inextricably bound up with the way we see ourselves.


 
Imperial Japan At Its Zenith: The Wartime Celebration of the Empire’s 2600th Anniversary by Kenneth J. Ruoff

In his examination of the way Japan created and exploited its founding “moment,” Kenneth Ruoff provides a concise, clear view into the complex society of wartime Japan. He charts not only mass participation in the celebrations of the anniversary during a time when the country was entrenched in its conflict with China, but also the way attendant consumerism and tourism, both in Japan proper and its colonies, helped to reinforce feelings of nationalism. Ruoff meticulously examines the way in which such feelings were essential to wartime morale and to the popular support of a militaristic and aggressive government, and he clarifies his examination of this phenomenon though contrasts and comparisons to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Precise, clear, and beautifully written, Imperial Japan at Its Zenith is a fascinating narrative, which can be appreciated by scholars and general readers alike.