Archive for the ‘Coretta Scott King Award’ Category

cv041968My grandmother was an ardent admirer of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A “colored” woman raised in Canada to pass for white, my grandmother proudly displayed a framed copy of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the wall of her home. As a teenager in Toronto I took a class on American history in order to learn more about the “Negro” ancestors my grandmother so often discussed, and I was devastated when she made a gift of the speech to my frivolous older sister. I was the one teaching the Civil Rights Movement to my high school classmates; I was the one who could recite portions of the speech by heart. My grandmother did give me her carefully preserved copy of Life magazine and though I admired Mrs. King’s sorrowful yet elegant profile, I still harbored resentment over the allocation of the speech. That piece of parchment went from a place of honor in my grandparents’ manse to the wall of my sister’s apartment; it hung next to the stereo, which blared lyrics by Jay-Z that would have made Mrs. King blanch. It took years for me to realize that my grandmother gave Dr. King’s speech to the granddaughter who needed it most. I wrongly thought that my investment in social justice entitled me to inherit the framed speech, but my grandmother knew that I was ready for something more and she was right—by my last year of college I was critiquing the “I Have a Dream” speech in the campus newspaper.

BirdwinnerSince penning that editorial twenty years ago I have worked to develop my skills as a black feminist cultural critic. In 1994 I reversed the migration that brought my African American ancestors to Canada in 1820. Unfortunately my grandmother passed in 2002, months before I earned my PhD in American Studies from NYU; my dissertation, which focused on representations of racial violence in African American literature, was dedicated to her. I currently teach courses on race, gender, and sexuality in the Center for Ethnic Studies at BMCC, a community college in lower Manhattan that serves mostly immigrant and working-class students of color. Many are reluctant readers and so I’ve had to develop innovative ways of introducing them to black literature, which they wrongly expect to be irrelevant, outdated, and uninteresting. In addition to my teaching I’ve published scholarly essays, short fiction, and poetry in various anthologies, and my plays have been staged in New York, Chicago, and Cleveland. I’ve also published three books for young readers—one of which, BIRD, won numerous awards after its publication in 2008, including a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for the illustrator, Shadra Strickland. Though she hoped at least one of her grandchildren would follow in her footsteps and become a preacher, overall I think my grandmother would approve.

imagesI speak to hundreds of school children every year and my author presentation always begins with the shiny stickers on the cover of BIRD. Here in the US, children always know who Coretta Scott King was and they know that, like her husband, she believed in justice and equality for all. We talk about the way awards draw attention to a particular book and often ensure that it won’t go out of print. Then I ask the children to guess how many books are published in the US each year. Once we settle on the figure (about 5,000), I ask the children to guess what percentage of those books have black authors. They’re natural optimists, children. Most of the students I meet attend majority-black schools—urban schools that are just as segregated as those that predate the Civil Rights Movement—and it’s not uncommon for them to have black-authored books in the classroom. So there are always gasps of amazement when I hold up three fingers and inform them that less than 3% of all the children’s books published each year are written by authors who look like them. I add that Asian American, Latino, and Native American authors each represent less than 1% of the total, leaving 95% of all books for children written by members of one racial group. “Does that sound fair to you?” I ask and invariably I hear a chorus of indignant NOs in response.

todd-duncan-coretta-scott-king-and-rosa-parks_i-G-65-6570-AZ82100ZWhen I saw the list of CSK Award recipients on Monday, I wondered what Coretta Scott King would think. I never had the privilege of meeting Mrs. King and all I know about the award is what I’ve read on the ALA website. I know that in 2009 the CSK Book Award celebrated its fortieth anniversary, and I do believe that black authors and illustrators are better off today than they were in the “all-white world of children’s books” of the 1970s. But when we look at the small number of authors and illustrators who seem to win a CSK Award year after year after year, are we looking at a picture of real diversity? Is the award helping to increase the overall pool of black authors and illustrators, or is it merely upholding the status quo by feeding a few big fish in a very small pond? Publishers no doubt realize the committee’s seeming preference for books about Dr. King and Rosa Parks and (a few) other historical figures. Does an editor’s desire to win yet another shiny sticker deter her from publishing other authors of other kinds of books that also “demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values?”

The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.

Self-published author and quilter Kyra Hicks has conducted an analysis of the award recipients and her findings indicate that the past four decades have produced a sort of winners club, an African American artistic elite whose insider status affords them creative opportunities too often denied their emerging and/or aspiring peers. It would seem as if the John Steptoe Award for New Talent, “occasionally given for young authors or illustrators who demonstrate outstanding promise at the beginning of their careers,” was developed to help remedy this situation and yet it was not given out in 2011 or 2012, which puzzles me. The African American authors and illustrators at The Brown Bookshelf annually publish a list of 28 contributors to the field of black children’s literature. Is it possible that the CSK Book Awards Committee found no one worthy of recognition for two consecutive years?

Perhaps it is easier to look backward at the past, which is familiar and safe, than it is to look forward where new possibilities—frightening to some—extend across the shifting terrain of the future. Yet the recent presidential election revealed the danger (and ultimate futility) of holding onto a romanticized version of the past, and the 2008 election of Barack Obama demonstrated that eventually the old guard must yield to the new. The publishing world is gripped by upheaval right now and many steadfastly cling to old models for fear of embracing innovation and developing new traditions that will respond to and reflect the realities of the twenty-first century. With so-called minorities expected to make up the majority of the US population in thirty years (minority babies already constitute the majority), what can the CSK Book Awards Committee do to ensure that equity—an ideal cherished by Dr. and Mrs. King—is not undermined by the children’s publishing industry? If 95% of children’s book authors were men, white women across the country would mobilize to create change. But where is the outrage over racial dominance in the children’s literature community?

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

In the past I have defended the CSK Award against claims that writers of all races should be eligible. With less than 3% of the publishing pie, though we constitute 13% of the US population, I felt that black authors and illustrators deserved something to call their own. Today I am less convinced of the relevance of the CSK Awards and wonder if I ought to revise the portion of my author presentation that claims the award reflects the values of Dr. and Mrs. King. The award-granting process is often controversial and generally shrouded in secrecy, though a 2010 article in School Library Journal lifted the veil on the Caldecott Medal. The CSK Book Awards Committee considers all genres, I believe, but the Caldecott focuses on one genre illustrated books only and still jury members can expect to review more than 700 titles each year. I am not entirely convinced of the link between quantity and quality in books, but there is something to be said for competition and I think creativity truly flourishes when more (and more kinds of) people are invited to the drawing table. As television’s numerous talent competitions demonstrate, the US has a deep pool of gifted individuals who are simply waiting for an opportunity to shine.

Last year I received a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to write a family memoir about my African American ancestors; I am anxious to explore the social pressures that first led them to flee slavery in the US only to further escape into whiteness in order to avoid racism in Canada. In my country of origin, an average of two black authors manage to publish a book for children each year, making a race-based award like the CSK impossible. Things are better here in the US, which is why I chose to relocate, but after more than a decade trying to publish my twenty manuscripts for young readers, I’m ready to throw in the towel and move on. I am close to completing two young adult novels, both speculative fiction, and once they’re done I plan to leave the world of children’s literature behind. I am disappointed by the complacency of so many individuals and institutions that claim to have children’s best interest at heart, yet I am encouraged by the fact that a small group of activists is currently in the process of reviving/reinventing the Council on Interracial Books for Children. I will do what I can to assist with the launch of this endeavor, and I hope its emphasis on social justice will truly honor the transformative vision of Dr. and Mrs. King.

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My essay on African Canadian authors is up on the FedCan blog:

If the Canadian publishing industry only opens the gate for two black novelists each year, what happens to all the other talented and aspiring writers? Twenty novels written by twelve African Canadian authors have been published in Canada since the start of the twenty-first century – and only two of the twelve were first-time authors. A rather astonishing percentage of those novels have won or been nominated for major literary awards, including Esi Edugyan’s Half Blood Blues, which won the 2011 Giller Prize. Yet can you name three black Canadian women novelists under the age of forty? I couldn’t do it when I emigrated in 1994, and I still can’t do it now that I’m nearing forty myself. I can name black women novelists from the United Kingdom (e.g. Helen Oyeyemi, Diana Evans, Zadie Smith) and the United States (e.g. Jesmyn Ward, N.K. Jemisin, Heidi Durrow). I adore the novels of Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, an amazingly talented writer from Nigeria. But when I think about young black Canadian women novelists, I draw an unsettling blank.

My scholarly field, Ethnic Studies, is very much in the news these days since the Tucson Unified School District complied with an order from the Arizona state superintendent for public instruction to terminate the Mexican American Studies Program. It infuriates me to know that books are being banned – books that empower so many students of color by opening doors to an alternate, more inclusive view of the world. I know from experience – both as a student and educator – how it feels to finally find yourself in a classroom where people who look like you take center stage. How often does this happen in Canada for black children or children of color more generally? How can it happen when gatekeeping in the Canadian publishing industry keeps the flow of diverse voices to a trickle?

My longer conference paper is still under construction, and I’m thrilled that at least five authors responded to my request for an interview. Now I just have to knuckle down and pull it all together…

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The Youth Media awards were announced yesterday at the midwinter ALA convention. You can find a recap of all the winners and honorees at the ALA site. The Coretta Scott King Award recipients are listed below. I’m eager to see Kyra Hicks’ analysis of the CSKs—each year she points to trends that force us to ask just what the award does to promote excellence in African American children’s literature. If the same people win the award year after year, are we really making progress? If the pool of black-authored books isn’t expanding, do we really know what excellence looks like? And are the CSKs making a difference? I’m still working on my analysis of black Canadian authors and it’s clear that since 2000, despite some black authors winning major literary prizes, only TWO debut authors entered the publishing arena. This would seem to disprove the theory that recognizing excellence leads to greater opportunities for all writers of color…


Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:

Kadir Nelson, author and illustrator of “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans,” is the King Author Book winner. The book is published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Two King Author Honor Book recipients were selected: Eloise Greenfield, author of “The Great Migration: Journey to the North,” illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist and published by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; and Patricia C. McKissack, author of “Never Forgotten,” illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon and published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:

Shane W. Evans, illustrator and author of “Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom,” is the King Illustrator Book winner. The book is a Neal Porter Book, published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership.

One King Illustrator Honor Book recipient was selected: Kadir Nelson, illustrator and author of “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans,” published by Balzar + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement:

Ashley Bryan is the winner of the Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime achievement. The award, which pays tribute to the quality and magnitude of beloved children’s author Virginia Hamilton.

Storyteller, artist, author, poet and musician, Bryan created his first children’s book in first grade. He grew up in the Bronx and in 1962, he became the first African American to both write and illustrate a children’s book. After a successful teaching career, Bryan left academia to pursue creation of his own artwork. He has since garnered numerous awards for his significant and lasting literary contribution of poetry, spirituals and story.

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1.  I’ve seen more than one member of my family every day this week.

2.  While being driven to the train station by my mother (who lives in outer suburbia) we saw a FOX calmly trotting across the street.

3.  I can’t remember the last time I saw the sun.

4.  I’m wearing a borrowed sweater and pants over my nightgown just to keep warm.

5.  I paid $20 for a small, slender paperback book (After Canaan by Wayde Compton).

This is Day 3 of my spring trip to Toronto, and so far things are going pretty well.  I had a great time in Ajax yesterday–the city east of Toronto where I was born almost 40 years ago.  I got a warm welcome at both schools, and the students seemed engaged and interested in my journey from immigrant to author.  I always start my presentations with a little Q&A: I show them the shiny stickers on the cover of BIRD and explain the significance of each one.  Yesterday when I asked, “Who was Coretta Scott King?” not one student raised her/his hand.  Not one.  I mentioned Frederick Douglass and then realized they likely don’t know who he is, either.  New York City Draft Riots?  The Civil War?  Not something Canadian students learn about in school.  So if I come back again, I’ll have to tweak my presentation.  The kids up here seem very young; maybe NYC kids mature more quickly.  Still, I could tell it meant something to these diverse kids to have a black woman author visiting their school.  It doesn’t happen too often, I don’t think.  After talking about the awards BIRD has won, I ask kids to guess how many books are published annually. In the US, it’s 5000.  In Canada, it’s 500 (I laughed out loud when one kid raised his hand and said, “Two!”).  And last year, black authors wrote less than 1% of the books published for kids in Canada.  Grim.  Do I think that’s going to change?  Yes, but slowly.  Very slowly.  If, as Douglass argued, “Power concedes nothing without a demand,” then folks up here have GOT to start making demands.  And that’s not really “the Canadian way.” 

I think it’s supposed to rain the rest of the week.  It makes the birds happy, if no one else.

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That’s the philosophy of award-winning author Kekla Magoon—wouldn’t you love to be in her creative writing class?  I’m so happy to host her here at my blog—Kekla’s a *very* busy woman so I’m very grateful she took the time to answer a few questions about her writing life.

1.  Most people know about your award-winning debut novel, The Rock and the River, but you’ve written a number of non-fiction books as well.  Can you tell us about your writing history and how you select and/or develop new projects?

The first books I published, back in 2007, were non-fiction books for the educational market. I contributed about eight titles to a series published by ABDO for middle school libraries. The series had three categories: Essential Lives (biographies), Essential Events (a study of important world history moments), and Essential Viewpoints (a balanced introduction to controversial issues). The publisher developed a list of titles that would be included in each series, so I didn’t choose the topics for these books, but sometimes I was offered a choice of which titles I wanted to write. I tended to choose topics related to civil rights (NELSON MANDELA), women’s issues (SALEM WITCH TRIALS), and arts or writing (MEDIA CENSORSHIP). All the books had a history component to them, too, which is right up my alley. These for-hire projects were very helpful for me financially for several years as I made the transition from traditional employment to being a full-time author and speaker.

I also am grateful to have had that structured experience writing non-fiction, because I am now looking to do more non-fiction titles of my own creation. I am particularly interested in history, and what I know best is Black History, so I have turned my attention to that for now. This spring, my first royalty-based non-fiction project is coming out from Lerner Publishing. It’s called TODAY THE WORLD IS WATCHING YOU and is about the Little Rock Nine, the first black students to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. It was shortly after the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision ruled school segregation unconstitutional. The Little Rock Nine faced a year of violent torment in school and strong community backlash, and they helped pave the way for generations of black students to be educated alongside white students. It’s an amazing story!

Next, I am developing a proposal for a non-fiction book on the Black Panther Party for teenagers. It will connect well with THE ROCK AND THE RIVER, and my forthcoming companion novel, FIRE IN THE STREETS. It is very important to me to have such untold narratives from history begin to be shared more with young people.
2.  Ella’s biracial identity isn’t necessarily central to the story in Camo Girl.  Talk about your decision as a biracial woman to write about a biracial girl and how your novel “fits” (or not) with other narratives about mixed-race women. 

I’m not sure I have a good answer to how CAMO GIRL fits with other mixed-race narratives. Sometimes it’s hard to analyze one’s own work in those terms, although I do give thought to the place my books might take in the canon of children’s literature. I feel it’s important for many of my characters to be women of color, but I didn’t want to write a story about a girl torn between two races, or heavily struggling with identity on racial grounds. I was hoping to paint a more nuanced picture of what it can mean to be a mixed-race person. In the end, I believe I made her biracial because I am biracial.
Even though CAMO GIRL is only my second published novel, it’s about the sixth novel manuscript that I’ve personally worked on (some are forthcoming, others are unfinished).  Not all the characters in those projects are black or biracial. I’m sharing that because I want to be clear that I’ve written a fair amount, so it will make more sense when I say that Ella is the character who seems most like me of all the characters I’ve created. She is NOT me, of course, but I did make a conscious effort to place some of my experiences and perspectives into her. I’m a reasonably self-confident person and I never suffered the extreme social exclusion that Ella faces in the novel. However, her sense of being different and her longing for new friendships are part of my memory of myself in middle school. For those reasons, this novel touches me more personally, and I hope that as such it can let some young struggling girls (of any race) know that there is something beautiful to see when they look in the mirror.
3.  I know you’re passionate about writing and love being in the classroom.  How do you teach someone to become a better writer?

Yes, I do enjoy teaching writing, both to children and adults. With very young children, it’s mostly a matter of encouraging them to keep writing and to celebrate their ability to pour creativity into everything. All their writing has energy and honesty and voice. At that point, all they need is time to develop vocabulary, gain life experience, and make observations about it. What I fear happens as kids get older is they begin to doubt their individual voice, which causes them to suppress some of those creative urges. They learn to self-edit in a way that is sometimes too extreme. Teen years are already a vulnerable time, even if you do nothing to explicitly expose yourself; creative expression only compounds that sensitivity. So I think positive reinforcement is key with teenagers, and can be the foundation that will help them grow into successful lifelong writers, if they choose to follow that route. I believe that a person who is confident in her/his voice and who believes s/he has something important to say will be able to develop far better writing skills over time.
Why? Because a confident writer will learn to accept criticism without taking it personally.
I see writing as a two-fold process: it is simultaneously a personal creative act, and an attempt to communicate. On one side, an author has something to say that s/he feels passionate about. On the other, s/he wants someone to understand that idea and embrace it. I believe the best critical feedback is targeted solely at the second half of that equation. A good teacher won’t try to change or criticize what the student writer’s core message or story is, but simply provide tools by which the student can improve how s/he communicates. This is why a writer who believes in her/his voice will grow more than one who is insecure, because (perhaps subconsciously) s/he will be able to separate criticism of style vs. substance.
How do I personally strive to make confidence happen for my students? Well, it’s a work in progress. As I’m often a guest author, I see my role as inspirer, uplifter. I only give positive feedback. There are no wrong answers in my workshops, ever. Most kids write mostly for school, where there are a lot of rules to writing, like spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. This is necessary training for life but it can get restrictive, and it makes kids feel like there’s a right way to write. One of my favorite writing workshops that I offer is called WordPLAY! because I encourage my students to try writing without rules, without purpose, just for fun. The idea is to loosen them up and shake them out of the structures of school writing–the five paragraph paper, the book report, the essay exam, and so on. Spelling errors? Bring them on. Made up words? Why not? They get very creative, and then later we talk about how professional writers do a lot of editing of their work after the first draft. I still try to emphasize that “Nothing you write can be wrong!” (my workshop slogan), but that doesn’t mean you can’t look for a way to say what you want to say a little bit better.

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Congratulations to Rita Williams-Garcia and all the other winners and honorees announced at today’s ALA midwinter meeting!  You can find a list of all the winners here; to read more about Rita’s motivation for writing the Coretta Scott King Award-winning (and Newbery Honoree) One Crazy Summer, check out my three-part interview (Part One, Part Two, Part Three).  Bryan Collier won the Caldecott Honor Award, and Eric Velasquez won the Pura Belpre Illustrator Award.  Congrats everyone!

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When I think about the Canadian publishing industry, that’s generally the phrase that comes to mind: a few black writers take up a whole lot of space, and are fed (with opportunities, award, grants, etc.) until they choke the pond and make it impossible difficult for new writers to emerge.  Now, the question is: whose fault is that?  The handful of successful black writers?  Or a system that prefers to create an exclusive club by rewarding only a few talented people?  According to the ALA site, it was never the stated intent of the Coretta Scott King Award to increase the number of black authors and illustrators working in the field of children’s literature:

Given to African American authors and illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions, the Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream of a pluralistic society.

The award is designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.

But shouldn’t widening the field be one of their primary goals?  Does it make sense to promote the same authors and illustrators over and over again?  Ari is asking these and other provocative questions over at Reading in Color; check it out and contribute to this conversation…

In other news, One Crazy Summer won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction—congratulations, Rita Williams-Garcia!!!

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Part of being Canadian means I grew up drinking gallons (litres) of tea…still do, even though I sometimes prefer a mug of Milo (and I’m sure there’s a colonial connection there, too).  We’re expecting more than a foot of snow tomorrow, so I stocked up on food and plan to stay indoors with a good book and a cup of tea.  There’s also some good stuff to read online: swing by the Brown Bookshelf every day this month b/c they’re putting the spotlight on amazing African American authors and illustrators.  Today the light shines on my friend and award-winning artist SHADRA, so do stop by–Don’s even giving away an advance copy of her new book, Hurricanes….there’s also a great review of Wish over at A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy.  And Liz B got her copy from Susan—ever the gift-giver—but did you know that today is Susan’s birthday?  Swing by Black-eyed Susan’s to help her celebrate (I’m having some chocolate cake on your behalf, Susan!)

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Have you been following the Magic Under Glass controversy?  Need a break, or are you looking for a straightforward synopsis?  Then swing by Chasing Ray and read Colleen’s summary and critique.  Everybody should probably step back and take a deep breath before posting another comment…Neesha Meminger also cuts to the chase:

I do LOVE that there are bloggers out there who see this issue as something that affects them, and are taking it on themselves, or as allies. Brava to you! The only thing that really irked me in the comments I read was the suggestion that those who are outraged about the cover should somehow be “nicer” in their outrage. Let me just point out that sometimes PoC, women, LGBTQ folks, the working class, and other people who’ve had their voices marginalized, get angry. When you’re being battered on a daily basis, you’re bound to get a little pissed. And then, if you see people you love–your little brother, your cousin, your mom, your child, your grandpa–relentlessly battered as well, you’ll not likely reach out lovingly, softly, compassionately, to “teach” someone that their silence is not only NOT helping you, but that it is helping to keep the very systems in place that bruise and batter you every single day. To tell people who’ve had long histories of violence, subjugation, brutality, colonization, and/or slavery, that it would be better for them to be “nice” about their pain and outrage at being erased yet again — because they might hurt someone else’s feelings, otherwise — is really another way of saying “shut up.” It truly is. Audre Lorde’s famous quote, “Your silence will not protect you” comes to mind; the extension of that being, “Your silence will not help others.”

And I *just* found this great post from Eva over at A Striped Armchair—she links to that great Peggy McIntosh article, which apparently some folks need to read/re-read.  Think there’s nothing you can do?

I’m not trying to make you defensive. But here’s what I’m asking. Examine your reading choices, from an ethnic point of view. Are you comfortable with what you see? If not, change something. Commit, preferably publicly, to reading X number of POC books. Or X percentage. Or be sure to review the ones that you do read. Or do a post about it to spread awareness. Or start requesting that your library buy specific POC books (my library allows patrons four requests a month, and I’ve been using them on POC and GLBT books to try to round out their collection). Or ask your favourite bookstore why their endcap displays feature so many white authors. Just do something!

On another note, Kyra Hicks has once again dazzled us with her statistical skills…stop by her blog and see how the CSK Awards seem to go to the same (talented) authors and illustrators year after year—is there anything we can do about this?

On the subject of repeat winners ….

  • 52% of the 246 total Coretta Scott King awards given since 1970 have gone to recipients who have received four or more awards!
  • 23 folks have won more than four Coretta Scott King awards: 12 authors and 11 illustrators
  • 71 out of the 152 author awards have gone to the same 12 African American authors. This is no disrespect to these fine folks or their body of literature – but put another way – nearly 1 in 2 Coretta Scott King author awards (46.7%) have gone to the same twelve folks. Does the United States of America really publish such few potential award-winning Black kid’s lit authors?!
  • On the illustrator front, 57 out of 94 illustrator awards have gone to the same 11 Black illustrators. Put another way… 60.6% of all Coretta Scott King awards for illustration have gone to the same 11 folks.
  • Painting a more detailed picture…. 23 illustration awards have gone to the same talented four illustrators: Jerry Pinkney, Ashley Bryan, and the team of Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon. That’s 1 in 4 CSK illustrator awards!

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It’s MLK Day here in the US, and I suspect others across the globe are also celebrating his achievements and legacy.  I had to go out this morning and as I crossed the street, a brother in a huge black SUV nearly ran me over—the usual “force a woman to look at you by nearly hitting her with your vehicle.”  I dodged the truck, looked him, and started cursing when he waved as if to say, “Go ahead, sweetheart.”  Then I remembered it was MLK Day, and I tried to let it go (which clearly didn’t work since I’m writing about it here). There’s a fair bit of rancor online as well b/c of the Magic Under Glass cover controversy and the response of *some* white bloggers who feel we’re making a big deal out of a small matter.  I don’t have time to respond to all the ignorant remarks—we’ve gotten a LOT of support from other conscious bloggers, and there are follow-up posts at Reading in Color and Black-Eyed Susan’s.  Besides, today the ALA announced the winners of the Youth Media Awards!  The ALA site seems to be down right now, but the winners include Jerry Pinkney for The Lion and the Mouse—bear in mind that the prestigious Caldecott Medal has only gone to two black artists in over 70 years, so this is a really big deal.  As Nikki Grimes pointed out in a Horn Book op-ed, “The Caldecott has been around since 1938, which makes it seventy-one years old. In all that time, no individual African American artist has been honored with the medal. Note, I specified individual. Interracial couple Leo and Diane Dillon (he’s black, she’s white) twice won the Caldecott as a pair of artists working as one. When it comes to single, individual African American artists, however, the win column is still blank.”  The Coretta Scott King awards went to Bad News for Outlaws, written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by Greg Christie (see Doret’s review here); the honor award went to Tanita S. Davis for Mare’s War, which is a story that still lingers in my mind.  Fellow WAGW panelist Kekla Magoon won the John Steptoe New Talent Award for The Rock and the River (read Ari’s review here); Charles R. Smith, Jr. won the Illustrator award for My People, and EB Lewis won the Honor award for The Negro Speaks of Rivers.  Congratulations to everyone!

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