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NMSU English professor, poet wins 2011 American Book Award for nonfiction work

New Mexico State University assistant professor of English Carmen Gimenez Smith recently added a national award to her list of literary honors. In October, Gimenez Smith received a 2011 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for her memoir, "Bring Down the Little Birds: On Mothering, Art, Work, and Everything Else." She accepted the award at a ceremony at the University of California, Berkeley.

New Mexico State University assistant professor of English Carmen Gimenez Smith received a 2011 American Book Award at a ceremony at the University of California, Berkeley in October. (Courtesy photo)

Published in 2010, her book is an exploration of the many faces of motherhood from her own experience as a mother and her memories of her own mother, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor and Alzheimer's disease.

"This award gives me legitimacy as a nonfiction writer, which is important to me because I identify as a poet and a nonfiction writer," said Gimenez Smith. "It also helps my students understand it's a possibility for them to write nonfiction."

The Before Columbus Foundation, founded in 1976, is a nonprofit educational and service organizational and service organization dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of contemporary American multicultural literature. The goals of BCF are to provide recognition and a wider audience for the wealth of cultural and ethnic diversity that constitutes American writing. The American Book Awards are not associated with any industry group or trade organization. Award winners are nominated and selected by a panel of writers, editors and publishers who also represent the diversity of American literary culture.

"This award was started to recognize the diversity of voices that exist in the world of publishing," Gimenez Smith said. "The award doesn't just go to writers of color, it goes to all sorts of writers, but it is interested in representing diversity because for a long time awards did not represent diversity. It calls attention and gives distinction to the work for that reason. It is a well-respected award."

Gimenez Smith won two awards earlier this year for both her poetry and creative nonfiction works. She will have another collection of poetry coming out in November and two more collections coming out in the next year.

Gimenez Smith is the editor-in-chief of NMSU's literary journal Puerto del Sol and a publisher of Noemi Press, which publishes poetry and fiction. She is the author of two previous collections of poetry, "Odalisque in Pieces" (University of Arizona Press, 2009) and "The City She Was" (Center for Literary Publishing, 2011). In 2010, Gimenez Smith was one of eight Latino poets in the U.S. selected to participate in "Ocho Poetas," a collaboration to advance the cause of Latino publishing.