Courtesy of Jay Ericson
Jason Lutes accepting the Vermont Book Award
At a gala ceremony on Saturday night in Montpelier, the fifth annual Vermont Book Award
was presented to Hartland cartoonist Jason Lutes
for his 2018 graphic novel Berlin
. It's the first graphic work to win the award, which is administered by the Vermont College of Fine Arts
The $5,000 literary prize isn't the first award that Lutes, a Center for Cartoon Studies
faculty member, has won for his work. In summer 2018, he received the prestigious Inkpot Award
at Comic-Con International
in San Diego, as Pamela Polston noted in a 2018 Seven Days cover story
. She described the three-volume Berlin
, which combines history and fiction to chronicle the rise of German fascism between the world wars, as "an astonishing accomplishment that represents a grand vision and more than 20 years' work."
“I felt grateful and honored for having my book nominated for the VBA, but the last thing I expected was to actually win," Lutes wrote in an email. "To work in solitude on a project for 22 years, and then to receive a standing ovation for that work from a roomful of strangers, was an unimaginable and deeply humbling experience. I could barely keep it together at the podium. It was a night I will never forget."
Besides the cash, Lutes will take home an award sculpture crafted by Luciana Frigerio
, a Norwich artist who repurposed copies of The Best American Short Stories of the Century
into a one-of-a-kind trophy.
was selected by a team of nine judges from among 10 finalists
for the award, ranging from poetry to nonfiction to children's literature. Among them were The Great Believers
by Rebecca Makkai (also a National Book Award finalist
); The Season of Styx Malone
by Kekla Magoon (also a Coretta Scott King Honor Book
and winner of the 2019 Boston Globe—Horn Book Award
); and The Animal One Thousand Miles Long: Seven Lengths of Vermont and Other Adventures
, by Seven Days
contributor Leath Tonino
Vermont College of Fine Arts interim president Leslie Ward spoke at the gala; she was appointed last summer to succeed founding president and novelist Thomas Christopher Greene, who will return to the college's faculty in 2020 following a sabbatical.