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Tampa poet Erica Dawson named a gold medalist in Florida Book Awards

Photo by Kevin Kelii Erica Dawson of the University of Tampa faculty has won the 2018 Florida Book Award for poetry for her book ‘When Rap Spoke Straight to God.’
Photo by Kevin Kelii Erica Dawson of the University of Tampa faculty has won the 2018 Florida Book Award for poetry for her book ‘When Rap Spoke Straight to God.’
Published Mar. 14, 2019

Erica Dawson of the University of Tampa faculty has won the gold medal for poetry in the Florida Book Awards.

The book-length poem When Rap Spoke Straight to God earned the award for Dawson, who is director of the low-residency MFA in creative writing program at UT.

Dawson wrote in an email: "When Rap Spoke Straight to God was inspired by, and written in response to, my almost-nine years in Tampa, FL — the good and the bad. I am incredibly honored to receive this recognition. It means the world to me."

Two Tampa Bay area authors won bronze medals in the 2018 awards. St. Petersburg resident Gale Massey won in the general fiction category for her debut novel, The Girl From Blind River. Rob Sanders of Brandon took bronze in the younger children's literature category for his book Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights.

The awards, now in their 13th year, are coordinated by the Florida State University Libraries and co-sponsored by a group of educational and literacy organizations. For 2018, more than 200 books were entered in the competition. Authors must be Florida residents, except in the Florida nonfiction and visual categories; those books must be about a Florida subject matter.

The 2018 winners will be honored at an awards banquet in Tallahassee on April 11. For information about the Florida Book Awards, go to


Younger Children's Literature

Gold: Silvia Lopez, Just Right Family

Silver: Margaret Cardillo, Just Being Jackie

Bronze: Rob Sanders, Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights

Older Children's Literature

Gold: Ryan Calejo, Charlie Hernandez and the League of Shadows

Silver: Jennifer Swanson, Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Intersect

General Nonfiction

Gold: Dawn Davies, Mother of Sparta

Silver: Kevin Begos, Tasting the Past: The Science of Flavor and the Search for the Origins of Wine

Bronze: Luis Martínez-Fernández, Key to the New World: A History of Early Colonial Cuba

General Fiction

Gold: Kimberley Lojewski, Worm Fiddling Nocturne in the Key of a Broken Heart

Silver: Ron Cooper, All My Sins Remembered

Bronze: Gale Massey, The Girl From Blind River

Florida Nonfiction

Gold: Gilbert King, Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found

Silver: Jim Ross, ed., In Season: Stories of Discovery, Loss, Home, and Places in Between

Bronze: Bruce Horovitz, Gamble Rogers: A Troubadour's Life


Gold: Erica Dawson, When Rap Spoke Straight to God

Silver: D.M. Aderibigbe, How the End First Showed

Bronze: Erin Hoover, Barnburner

Popular Fiction

Gold: Michael Jordan, Company of Demons

Silver: Veronica H. Hart, The Knife

Bronze: Tom Lowe, The Jefferson Prophecy

Spanish Language

Gold: Hernán Vera Álvarez, La librería del mal salvaje

Silver: Glenda Galán, Ventanas: Entrevistas de Glenda Galán a escritores latinoamericanos

Bronze: Félix Anesio, Los cuervos y la infamia

Visual Arts

Gold: Richard Shieldhouse, William Morgan: Evolution of an Architect

Silver: Sharon Koskoff, Murals of the Palm Beaches

Bronze: Andre Frattino, A Land Remembered, a Graphic Novel

Young Adult Literature

Gold: Tara Lynn Masih, My Real Name Is Hannah

Silver: Kristina Niehouse, Knowing When to Leave

Contact Colette Bancroft at or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.


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