Diversify Your Shelves: Diverse Book Awards
While diversity in publishing has been at the center of conversations in the industry as of late, we still have more work to do to achieve it. As Marlon James, author of the Booker-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings, noted in a recent essay, “Maybe we will stop failing so badly at true diversity when we stop thinking that all we need to do is talk about it.”
One way to take action is to recognize diverse authors through book awards, celebrating their craftsmanship and talent on national and international platforms. Recent pieces in the New York Times and Bustle note that the honorees of major literary prizes are becoming more diverse across several genres. We Need Diverse Books, the movement that has generated much-needed attention to the lack of diversity in kidlit, established its own book award to recognize diversity: the Walter Dean Myers Award, which will honor books that follow in the acclaimed author’s tradition of “providing children with powerful mirrors” in literature.
The Myers Award is the latest of many fantastic awards that celebrate diverse authors and stories in both children’s and adult literature. We’ve compiled a list (by no means exhaustive!) below—and we encourage you to share your favorite awards and authors with us on Twitter @YoungtoPub.
Named for the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library, this award is presented annually to a Latino or Latina writer and illustrator “whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.” This year’s winner of the Author Award is Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle.
The first LGBT literary award, the Stonewall Book Award has three categories: literature, non-fiction, and children’s/YA literature. The winners for 2016 are The Gods of Tango by Carolina De Robertis (the Barbara Gittings Literature Award); Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial by Kenji Yoshino (the Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award); and George by Alex Gino and The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg (the Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award).
This award was created to honor Arab American scholarship and writing in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. This year’s winners are A Curious Land: Stories of Home by Susan Muaddi Darraj for Fiction; the Handbook of Arab American Psychology, edited by Mona M. Amer and Germine H. Awad, and This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror by Moustafa Bayoumi for Non-Fiction; and The Republics by Nathalie Handal for Poetry.
In honor of Mrs. Coretta Scott King and her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., these awards honor African American authors and illustrators of children’s and young adult books that “demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.” The winners for 2016 are Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia (Author Award) and Trombone Shorty by Bryan Collier (Illustrator Award).
Founded in 1935 by Edith Anisfield Wolf, these awards “recognize books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures.” Supported by the Cleveland Foundation since 1963, it remains the only American book award solely focused on racism and diversity. The Anisfield-Wolf awards honor works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Recent winners include Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings and Mary Morris’s The Jazz Palace.
The Lambda Literary Awards honor the best gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender books. The awards are presented at The Lammys, “the most prestigious and glamorous LGBTQ literary event in the world.” The awards recognize a variety of genres, including science fiction, graphic novels, young adult, and mystery.
The Tiptree Award, named after the pseudonym of prolific writer Alice Sheldon, identifies science fiction or fantasy titles that “explore our understanding of gender.” The award is governed by a “motherboard” that picks five jurors to select that year’s winner. They look for titles that push the boundaries of our perceptions of gender roles. The 2015 winners were The New Mother by Eugene Fischer and Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz.
The Asian Pacific American Library Association annually honors books about Asian and Pacific Americans and their heritage. Works are recognized in five categories: adult fiction, adult non-fiction, young adult, children’s, and picture book. The 2015-2016 winners included P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han and The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (which also won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction).
Awarded every two years by the American Indian Library Association, this award celebrates the best writing and illustrations about American Indians “in the fullness of their humanity in the present and past contexts.” Awards are given for picture books, middle school books, and young adult books. Little You by Richard Van Camp and In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III won the 2016 award.
Founded in 1995 by the Texas State University College of Education, the Rivera award recognizes authors and illustrators whose work reflects the Mexican American experience. The 2016 winners are Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez and Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh.
Endowed by Dr. Katherine Schneider in 2003, the Schneider Family Book Award recognizes authors or illustrators whose work “embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” The award is given in three categories: Middle School, Teen Book, and Children’s Book. The 2016 winners include Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson and The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten.
This article was contributed by YPG members Elizabeth Venere and Camille Redrick. For more information, visit our Contributing Writers page.