Bao Phi is kicking butt on the literary front. The Vietnam-born, Phillips neighborhood-raised, Macalester-educated author is a finalist in two categories for the Minnesota Book Awards this year: one for his debut children’s book, A Different Pond, and another for his second collection of poems, Thousand Star Hotel. He also recently nabbed the prestigious Charlotte Zolotow Award for best picture book in the country. Beyond his unique talents and perspective, what makes Phi’s writing so endearing is his humility and honesty. Whether he’s admitting a parenting flub on Facebook or calling out racism in his hometown, you never get anything less than the brutal truth, told beautifully.