Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, Laila Lalami, Harmony holiday, Morgan Parker, and Dana L. Davis are nominees of the California Book Awards 2020 announced on July 8, 2020.

The California Book Awards have recognised the state’s best writers and illuminate the wealth and diversity of literature written in California, USA since 1931. Monetary prizes are given in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, juvenile literature, Young Adult literature, first work of fiction, Californiana, and notable contribution to publishing.

The nominees for the 2020 edition of the awards, announced on July 8, had Black writers featuring in three of the five categories. Those still in the running for the title of the best writer in California in a specific category, with the Black writers in bold, are below.


  • Your House Will Pay, Steph Cha, Ecco
  • Cantoras, Carolina de Robertis, Knopf
  • The Other Americans, Laila Lalami, Pantheon Books
  • The Revisioners, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, Counterpoint


  • Street Gloss, Brent Armendinger, the operating system
  • A Little More Red Sun on the Human, Gillian Conoley, Nightboat Books
  • A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom, Harmony Holiday, Birds, LLC
  • Monsters I Have Been, Kenji Liu, Alice James Books
  • Magical Negro, Morgan Parker, Tin House Books


  • The Voice in my Head, Dana L. Davis, Ink Yard Press
  • Who Put This Song On?, Morgan Parker, Delacorte Press
  • Patron Saints of Nothing, Randy Ribay, Kokila
  • Frankly in Love, David Yoon, G.P Putnam’s Sons

Here is a bit more about the Black writers in the running;

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton studied creative writing at Dartmouth College and law at UC Berkeley. Her debut novel, A Kind of Freedom was a 2017 National Book Award Nominee, a New York Times Notable Book of 2017 and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. Her work has been published in The New York Times Book Review,, Lenny Letter, The Massachusetts Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, and other publications.

Laila Lalami

Laila Lalami is a Moroccan-American novelist, essayist, and professor. Her books include the novels Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits (2005), Secret Son (2009), The Moor’s Account (2014), and The Other Americans (2019) as well as the nonfiction title Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America (2020).

Harmony holiday

Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, and archivist/ myth scientist, and the author of Go Find Your Father/ A Famous Blues (Ricochet Editions, 2014) and Negro League Baseball (Fence Books, 2011).

Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker is an American poet, novelist, and editor. She is the author of poetry collections Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night, There are More Beautiful Things than Beyoncé, and Magical Negro which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Dana L. Davis

Dana L. Davis is a writer and Hollywood actress who has written the Young Adult title The Voice in my Head.

The winners of the awards will be announced at the 89th Annual California Book Awards at a date yet to be announced.