Sabaa Tahir wins the 2022 National Book Prize for children’s literature

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The life-changing power of literacy was at the forefront of the 73rd National Book Awards, which took place on November 16 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. The ceremony took place in person for the first time since 2019, giving the evening an extra layer of emotion.

Padma Lakshmi, producer, culinary expert, TV host and author, kicked off the festivities by highlighting how “books can also nourish us, sparking new ideas, exposing us to new people and cultures, and expanding our understanding of the world.” Picture book author Tomatoes for Neela, about three generations of Indian girls and women cooking together, Lakshmi said that “today, in schools across the country, books like mine are under attack.” She denounced the “unprecedented wave of book bans” and “massive censorship campaign” sweeping the nation, which particularly targets books by and about LGBTQ and BIPOC people. She said “deciding which books are in libraries is the job of librarians, not politicians”.

Echoing Lakshmi’s support for libraries and freedom to read, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of several anti-racist books for children and adults, presented the 2022 Literary Award for Outstanding Service to the Literary Community to the Executive Director of the American Library Association, Tracie D. Hall. She is the first black woman in this role. Hall received a standing ovation as she took the stage. “One of the main things we learn in library school,” she says, “is that information wants to be free. Let history show that librarians were at the forefront of defending democracy. She concluded her remarks with words of wisdom: “Remember: free people read freely.

Next, acclaimed author of books for adults and young readers Neil Gaiman awarded the 2022 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Art Spiegelman, whose groundbreaking graphic novel Maus has been frequently banned for its depiction of the Holocaust. Although Spiegelman claimed he had no intention of writing a children’s book or teaching a lesson with the book, he said, “I’m grateful that Maus may now have an afterlife as a cautionary tale, it might make readers insist on ‘never again’ in the future, even though the past for other minorities has been about ‘never again, and again, and even. »

After remarks from National Book Foundation Executive Director Ruth Dickey and Board Chairman David Steinberger, the main awards ceremony began. Author Lilliam Rivera presented the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature on behalf of Jury President Jewell Parker Rhodes, who was unable to attend at the last minute. “This is one of the most important awards,” Rivera said, thanking Rhodes and fellow judges Becky Albertalli, Joseph Bruchac and Meghan Dietsche Goel. Along with congratulating all of the category finalists, she said, “If you’re a creator and you’ve created something in the last few years, you’ve already won. Because how come we are even able to embark on this journey with all these obstacles? Rivera then announced that Sabaa Tahir was the winner, for her novel YA All my rage (Little Penguin).

The book, which TP Called in its star-studded review a “powerful and visceral novel,” follows a working-class Pakistani-American family across two generations, exploring themes of grief, racism, financial hardship, trauma, and addiction. The NBA judge’s quote said, “Tahir has created a compelling cross-generational story where the characters are interconnected in their search for community. All my rage is of the moment, urgent in its honest depiction of abuse, debt and the importance of forgiveness.

Tahir delivered a tearful acceptance speech, noting, “I am the first Muslim and Pakistani American woman to win this award.” Thanking the judges and fellow finalists, she dedicated the honor to “my Muslim sisters in too many places to count, who are fighting for their lives, their autonomy, their bodies and their right to live and tell their own stories. without fear My sisters, may you arise and be victorious against the oppressors.

Telling the story of his family, from his grandfather who was a tenant farmer with a fourth grade education, his grandmother who was illiterate, and to his parents who came to America almost 40 years ago to the day , she said, “It feels like an impossible dream.” Speaking as a child of immigrants, she said, “So many of our parents’ dreams died so the dreams of my generation could live on.” To her parents, she said, “Your love, prayers and sacrifices have lifted our stories beyond my imagination.”

She then thanked her agent, Alexandra Machinist at ICM Partners. “I told him about this book while I was contracted for another project,” Tahir explained. “She could have said ‘don’t you dare’, but instead she said ‘write it down and I’ll take care of the rest. The author also thanked his entire team at Penguin Young Readers who “supported me through so many missed deadlines, including the next one”, and his “editor and attorney Rūta Rimas, who put great trust in my instinct as a storyteller”.

After thanking her family of writers “who got me through this strangely difficult year with tea, samosas, hugs and cat videos”, she expressed her gratitude to her brother, “who saved my life more times than I can count, and who taught me everything there is to know”, and to his children, “who since my birth have made me share these imaginary worlds with such generosity of ‘spirit”. She told the audience how her husband Kashi “insisted that I tell this story, even when I was afraid to do so”. She thanked him “for all the Ben & Jerry’s – and there was a lot. And to remind me that my mind is stronger than my fear.

The author went on to acknowledge “every librarian, educator, and bookseller who has put my work in the hands of a young person in need.” Tahir concluded by addressing his “beautiful readers [who] told me that my books made them feel less alone. You Craft me feel less alone. I’ve been a misfit and an outcast and alone and lost, but when I write for you, I’m none of that. Thank you with all my heart for this gift.

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