'The Berry Pickers,' 'We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America' receive 2024 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction

For Immediate Release
Sat, 01/20/2024


Raymond Garcia

Communications Specialist

Communications, Marketing, and Media Relations Office


BALTIMORE — The American Library Association (ALA) selects “The Berry Pickers,” by Amanda Peters, published by Catapult, as the winner of the 2024 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and "We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America," by Roxanna Asgarian, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, as the winner of the 2024 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. The selections were announced at the Reference and User Services Association's Book and Media Awards (BMAs) event, sponsored by NoveList, on Saturday, January 20th, during LibLearnX: The Library Learning Experience in Baltimore, MD.

The Carnegie awards, established in 2012, serve as a guide to help adults select quality reading material. They are the first single-book awards for adult books given by the ALA and reflect the expert judgment and insight of library professionals and booksellers who work closely with adult readers.

In “The Berry Pickers,” an Indigenous Mi’kmaq family is in Maine in 1962 to pick summer blueberries when their youngest child, four-year-old Ruthie, disappears. Her six-year-old brother, Joe, saw her last. Told in alternating, first-person chapters from Joe and a narrator called Norma, this fascinating, braided novel follows the painful reverberations of Ruthie’s disappearance across five decades. While little is easy for Amanda Peters’ characters, in the end, for all of them, there is hope.

"We Were Once a Family” looks into a 2018 tragedy in which two women deliberately drove themselves and their six children off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean. While there was considerable speculation about the parents, who were married and white, the media paid little attention to the six Black children, who had been adopted from two different families. Investigative reporter Roxanna Asgarian’s years of work getting to know the children’s birth families uncovered a devastating web of intergenerational poverty, violence, and wrenching separations. She exposes the calamities that occurred and the ongoing, insupportable failings of the foster system.

"The committee is so excited for the Medalists to see their outstanding creations celebrated on such a big stage," said Aryssa Damron, chair of the selection committee for the 2024 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence. "Amanda Peters' stunning prose and evocative narrative enraptured us with the grief and longing of her characters. Roxanna Asgarian's blending of journalism, narrative nonfiction, and heartbreak tears back the veil on the child removal systems in the United States. Endless thanks to my amazing committee for spending a year reading great literature, discussing deeply with each other, and selecting two outstanding books that complement each other so perfectly and represent a year of inspiring conversations."

The 2024 fiction finalists include “The Berry Pickers,” by Amanda Peters, published by Catapult; “Denison Avenue,” by Christina Wong and Daniel Innes, published by ECW Press; and “Let Us Descend,” by Jesmyn Ward, published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

2024 nonfiction finalists include “The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration,” by Jake Bittle, published by Simon & Schuster; “The Talk,” by Darrin Bell, published by Henry Holt and Company; and “We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America,” by Roxanna Asgarian, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Carnegie Medal winners will each receive $5,000. All the finalists will be honored and the winners will be presented with their medals during a celebratory event at the San Diego Public Library during ALA's 2024 Annual Conference in June.

The Medals are made possible, in part, by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York in recognition of Andrew Carnegie’s deep belief in the power of books and learning to change the world, and are co-sponsored by ALA’s Booklist and the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA).

More information on the finalists and the awards can be found at http://www.ala.org/rusa/awards/carnegie-medals. Also, book cover artwork is available for download at http://www.ala.org/rusa/awards/carnegie-medals/resources

Contact for Amanda Peters:

Megan Fishmann
Vice President/Associate Publisher, Senior Director of Publicity
Catapult/Counterpoint Press/Soft Skull

Contact for Roxanna Asgarian:

Sarah Haeckel
Publicist | Picador
267-566-1546 (c) | sarah.haeckel@picadorusa.com
120 Broadway, 24th Floor, New York, NY 10271

About Carnegie Corporation of New York
Carnegie Corporation of New York was established in 1911 by Andrew Carnegie to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation's work focuses on the issues that Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy. 

About Booklist
Booklist is a book-review magazine that has been published by the American Library Association for more than 100 years, and is widely viewed as offering the most reliable reviews to help libraries decide what to buy and to help library patrons and students decide what to read, view or listen to. It comprises three magazines, including Booklist Reader, a new publication dedicated to patrons, an extensive website and database, e-newsletters, webinars, and other resources that support librarians in collection development and readers' advisory.

About Reference and User Services Association (RUSA)
The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) is a member community engaged in advancing the practices of connecting people to resources, information services, and collections, building relationships among members from all types of libraries, encouraging openness, innovation, and idea sharing, and promoting excellence in library services and resources.

About the American Library Association (ALA)

The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government, and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library's role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit www.ala.org.