Voice of the Heartland

The Voice of the Heartland Award is awarded jointly by the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association and the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association to individuals and organizations who uphold the value of independent bookselling and who have made a significant contribution to bookselling in the Greater Midwest. 

Congratulations Kris Kleindienst, Winner of the 2022 Voice of the Heartland Award

Kris KleindienstThe boards of the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association are honored to present Kris Kleindienst, owner of Left Bank Books in St. Louis, MO with the 2022 Voice of the Heartland award. This award is given in recognition of individuals and organizations who “uphold the value of independent bookselling and have made a significant contribution to bookselling in the Midwest.”

For decades Kris has been a leader and advocate for the bookselling community. She has served on regional and national bookselling boards and has been a mentor to future generations of booksellers. Kris is a champion of her local community while being a progressive voice of the underrepresented and historically marginalized communities. 
"Kris is incredibly deserving of the Voice of the Heartland award. Left Bank Books has been a pillar of St. Louis and the Midwest for over half a century, and Kris is its passionate and forward-thinking leader. She has always been kind and encouraging to me, especially when I was a brand-new bookstore owner nearly a decade ago. She is the reason I am a member of the MIBA board and I aspire to emulate her as a boss, a bookseller, and a business owner. Kris is generous with her time and knowledge and is truly invested in the future of bookselling. She has carried her store through recessions, pandemics, floods, and protests, keeping her neighborhood and her city awash in books all the while. I am so incredibly pleased to see her named Voice of the Heartland in 2022." - Emily Hall Schroen, Main Street Books, St. Charles, MO

Left Bank BooksIf ever a person should be named VOICE of the Heartland, it’s Kris! Long steered by Kris’ activist roots and passionate voice, Left Bank is a vibrant cultural center for St. Louis, and one of the best damn bookstores in the country. With an art section rivaling most museum shops these days, an impressive poetry section, and an entire wall filled with bookseller recommendations, Kris has guided Left Bank to a place of prominence in American arts & letters. Hers was the first store I knew of to create a Black Lives Matter window and reading list, and through the years, I have relied on Kris’s voice as one that of vision and insight. Personally, a sales appointment with Kris is equal parts sitting at the foot of a guru and visiting with a friend. She is so invested in her customers and knows her community so well that when she says "I’ll stack it" or "I have to skip it" I know that this is an informed position. She comes to every appointment prepared and with requests for books she knows her staff and customers will love. I treasure our conversations about bookselling, but even more, the stories we share and the wisdom I glean about activism, advocacy, parenting, and navigating our modern world. Hers is a singular, sparkling voice that has helped shape bookselling in this region. We are lucky to count her as our own." - Johanna Hynes, Field Sales Manager, IPS, PGW, Two Rivers, Ingram Academic

"In the past year plus, Kris has been such an influence on the bookselling community. She has managed to keep our bookstore open through the pandemic, overcoming catastrophic flooding to the store, and recovering from personal health issues. While serving on the board of American Booksellers Association, Kris was a voice for progressive bookstores while fighting book banning in our local community and across the US. Our mission has always been about championing underrepresented voices. Kris has encouraged that mission throughout the bookselling community. In Kris' long career as a bookseller, she has helped shape the industry for other independent bookstores fighting for a place in the world." - Shane P. Mullen, Event Coordinator, Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO

The Voice of the Heartland award is a collaboration between the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, who come together each year to produce the Heartland Fall Forum, a trade show for independent booksellers across the Midwest. Voice of the Heartland is an annual highlight of the joint awards celebration hosted at the trade show.

Ms. Kleindienst will be presented with the award during Heartland Fall Forum in St. Louis at the Heartland Book Awards Ceremony, on Wednesday, October 12 at 4:00 PM CT. 

Past Voice of the Heartland Winners

2020 Two Dollar Radio​
2019 BINC
​2018 Kate McCune
2017 Roy Schonfeld
2016 Wendell Berry

2015 Ted Heinecken
2014 Kate DiCamillo
2013 Jim Harrison
2012 Liz Murphy, Roberta Rubin

2009 Becky Anderson
2008 Studs Terkel
2007 Partners Distribution
2001 Indiana Univ Press