Awards to be presented at April virtual ceremony

Benjamin Alire Sáenz will receive the TIL’s prestigious Lon Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement, the highest honor given by the TIL.


The Texas Institute of Letters (TIL) has announced the winners of the thirteen annual TIL Literary Awards. In a year with a record number of contest entries, the TIL will award more than $25,000 in prizes to these writers at the virtual TIL Awards Ceremony and Presentation on April 17, 2021, which will include live readings and special videos by new TIL members. In addition, Benjamin Alire Sáenz will receive the TIL’ prestigious Lon Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement, the highest honor given by the TIL.


The TIL is a nonprofit honor society founded in 1936 to celebrate Texas literature and recognize distinctive literary achievement. The TIL’s elected membership consists of the state’s most respected writers, including winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, Man Booker Prize, Academy Award, International Latino Book Award, Americas Award, Lambda Literary Award, MacArthur Fellowship, and Guggenheim Fellowship.


President Sergio Troncoso said, “I am thrilled we had such a successful awards season, and I want to thank the judges for their work in selecting such a diverse group of writers as winners. All of these writers richly deserve many accolades for the high quality of their works. The TIL remains at the forefront of identifying excellent literature by writers dedicated to their craft.”


2021 TIL Award Winners

Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Book of Fiction: Memorial: A Novel, by Bryan Washington, Riverhead Books.


Sergio Troncoso Award for Best First Book of Fiction: Luz at Midnight, by Marisol Cortez, FlowerSong Press.


Carr P. Collins Award for Best Book of Nonfiction: Sutherland Springs, by Joe Holley, Hachette Books.


Helen C. Smith Memorial Award for Best Book of Poetry: Maps of Injury, by Chera Hammons, Sundress Publication.


John A. Robertson Award for Best First Book of Poetry: Anyone’s Son, by David Meischen, 3: A Taos Press.


Ramirez Family Award for Most Significant Scholarly Book: War and Peace on the Rio Grande Frontier: 1830- 1880, by Miguel Angel González-Quiroga, Oklahoma University Press.


Jean Flynn Award for Best Young Adult Book (two winner): Elatsoe, by Darcie Little Badger, Levine Querido; and Illegal, by Francisco Stork, Scholastic Press.


Deirdre Siobhan FlynnBass Award for Best Middle Grade Book: A Wish in the Dark, by Christina Soontornvat, Candlewick Press.


Brigid Erin Flynn Award for Best Picture Book: The Old Truck, by Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey, Norton Young Readers.


Fred Whitehead Award for Best Design of a Trade Book: Daddy-O’s Book of Big-Ass Art, by Bob “Daddy-O” Wade, book design by Mary Ann Jacob, Texas A&M University Press.


Kay Cattarulla Award for Best Short Story: David Meischen, “Crossing the Light,” Storylandia.


Edwin “Bud” Shrake Award for Best Short Nonfiction: ire’ne lara silva, “A Place Before Words,” Texas Highways.


Lon Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement: Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club and the Michael L. Printz Award and Lambda Literary Award for Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Sáenz has been a prolific author with over twenty-five books published. His books include The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, Last Night I Sang to the Monster, In Perfect Light, Carry Me Like Water, The Book of What Remains, Dreaming the End of War, The Last Cigarette on Earth, A Gift from Papa Diego, and The Dog Who Loved Tortillas. For his work, Sáenz has also won the American Book Award, Patterson Book Prize, Stonewall Book Award, Pura Belpré Award, Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, Southwest Book Award, and two TIL awards dedicated to children’s literature.


For more information on the TIL or on the April 17th virtual event, contact Sergio Troncoso,, or visit the TIL website at