Great Lakes independent Booksellers Association executive director Larry Law announced yesterday that the 2020 recipient of its Voice of the Heartland Award, co-sponsored by GLIBA and Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, is Two Dollar Radio, an indie publisher and bookseller headquartered in a Columbus, Ohio. Two Dollar Radio’s three-year-old bookstore specializes in books from indie presses and features a vegan café and full bar.
In his nominating letter to GLIBA’s board, bookseller Gary Lovely of the Book Loft, a Columbus indie, wrote, “Since Two Dollar Radio's beginning in 2005, they've consistently published fresh, bold voices and have been a shining example of indie publishing. With only a handful of employees, TDR has managed to grab acclaim from both literary icons and every major reviewer. Not only are the books good, but through their Purchase with Purpose program, they've consistently donated portions of their sales to fight racial inequality, lift up the LGBTQIA+ community, and more.”
TDR editorial director Eric Obenauf and COO Eliza Wood-Obenauf founded TDR 15 years ago along with Obenauf's brother, Brian, by publishing a single title, Obenauf’s novel, Can You Hear Me Screaming? It still specializes in literary fiction though it has expanded into nonfiction and published a cookbook this month inspired by its own café’s offerings, Two Dollar Radio Guide to Vegan Cooking by Jean-Claude Randy and Speed Dog with Obenauf.
In the past 15 years, TDR has published a literary journal and produced several micro-films. There are 58 TDR titles currently in print, including such critically acclaimed books as Hanif Abdurraquib’s collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us. In a 2015 interview, Obenauf emphasized the press’s commitment to quality and refusal to “saturate the market” by focusing upon high production values and low print runs. It produces six books each year.
In a release, Law stated, “We feel Two Dollar Radio’s mission, and especially their commitment to actively elevate and publish the voices of BIPOC authors, is the very embodiment of what the Voice of the Heartland Award seeks to honor. Their work is meaningful, not only to our collective regions, but also in elevating and expanding the voices heard in American arts & letters.” Among the press's many honors, in 2010, a TDR release, 1940 by Jay Neugeboren was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award.
GLIBA noted also that TDR's bookstore and café “have created a ‘third space’ that has proven to be an anchor to its community.” Obeanuf and Wood are also co-founders of The Flyover Fest , an “inclusive and fresh” three-day Columbus arts festival called Flyover Fest that “engages the city, stimulates creativity, and sparks conversation through multiple arts in walkable, distinctive venues.”
Past recipients of the Voice of the Heartland Award include the Binc Foundation, authors Wendell Berry, Kate DiCamillo, Jim Harrison and Studs Terkel. TDR is the second publisher to receive the Voice of the Heartland Award in its 19 year history since Indiana University Press won the debut award in 2001.
TDR's co-founders and their five employees will be honored in a virtual ceremony on October 15.