Jan 30 2017
Last weekend in Atlanta some wonderful things happened to me.
Samurai Rising won a fancy silver seal as a finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award, and Pam Turner and I each got a lovely plaque. It’s really her award, but I was super happy to be part of it. Unlike most of the awards announced at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference, the YALSA finalists are announced ahead of time, and the only mystery is who will get the gold seal. The answer (unsurprisingly, at least to Alison and me), was March Book 3, the wonderful graphic novel by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, published by Top Shelf Comics.
March proceeded to win 3 more ALA awards, bringing the total medals on its cover to an unprecedented six! — National Book Award, Printz, Corretta Scott King, Walter Dean Myers, YALSA Nonfiction, Sibert Nonfiction. I think (as, it seems, did the award committees) that this is the book of our time. We’re in a moment reminiscent of the events of the civil rights movement, and may need the lessons of March and the leadership of men like John Lewis to move civil rights forward.
The real high point of the weekend was the award ceremony for the YALSA and Morris Awards. Since the finalists for these two awards are announced ahead of time, they have their acceptance ceremony right after the award announcements (as opposed to the Newbery and Caldecott, which have their ceremony at ALA Annual in the summer). The Morris is the award for the best debut YA novel. Each finalist for the two awards was invited to speak briefly.
I guess it should come as no surprise that good writers can write really good speeches; that debut novelists can express heartfelt and earnest passion for their work and gratitude for being recognized; and that nonfiction authors can paint a vivid picture of how history relates to the present. But wow, did they ever! I wish the whole video was online, because I’d like everyone I know to be able to watch it. It was such an amazing expression of the passion authors and librarians have for the power of books. Sadly, at the moment, all I can find are handheld recordings of John Lewis’ and Sonia Patel’s speeches on YouTube.
I also did some sketches of the speakers at both award ceremonies:
Afterward we had a group photo in which I sat next to Congressman Lewis, and lastly the photographer had us make a human chain — which seemed rather silly at first, but when I realized (a) that I was locking arms with John Lewis, a man who has done the same thing so many times for real in the service of civil rights, and (b) the symbolism of all these nonfiction authors “holding the line” for facts and advancing truth in this time of “alternative facts,” I was very moved. Indeed I think it was one of my life’s peak moments.
So, yeah. Incredibly grateful to the YALSA Nonfiction committee, to ALA, to Pam, to Charlesbridge, and to the other authors for an amazing weekend.