1) John M. Archer, After the Rain: A Novel of War and Coming Home (Gettysburg, PA: Ten Roads Publishing, 2011), which takes a psychological perspective on the Civil War, as seen from the viewpoint of a Union army line officer.
2) Geraldine Brooks, Caleb’s Crossing (New York: Viking, 2011), set in 1660s Martha's Vineyard and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and centering on the friendship between a minister's daughter and a young man of the Wampanoag tribe. [read my review]
3) Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic (New York: Knopf, 2011), a short literary novel describing the experiences of Japanese "picture brides" sent to marry Japanese men, mostly farm laborers, working in the US in the early 20th century.
4) Pamela Schoenewaldt, When We Were Strangers: A Novel (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), in which a young seamstress leaves her Italian mountain village to make a new life for herself in 1880s America. [read my review]
5) Susan Vreeland, Clara and Mr. Tiffany (New York: Random House, 2011), about Clara Driscoll, Louis Comfort Tiffany's chief designer at his New York glass studio in the 1890s.
From the press release: "The winner of the 2011 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction will be selected from one of these five books. However, still other books will be discussed in the Director’s Mention category. This year the small and often regional presses have issued an unusually large number of high quality books in American historical fiction. Several of these should be discussed and honored, even if only one, After the Rain discussed above, made it onto the formal short list."
For longer descriptions of all five nominees, and for more details on the prize itself, visit the Langum Charitable Trust website. The Trust also welcomes readers' comments on these books on their Facebook page.