2018 Morris Awards and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Awards

I’m blogging about my experience at ALA Midwinter Meeting in February 2018. Last time, I blogged about my first meeting with the 2019 Newbery committee meeting. On Sunday, I went to a couple of publisher events (which I’m not going to talk about) and some interesting talks.

One was about Equity and Diversity in Libraries. It was an inspiring session and encouraged us to reach out to our communities and make new connections. They also encouraged us to find people of color and encourage them to become librarians. Only 10% of our profession is people of color, which is a crying shame. Where to find them? They are already working in our libraries in positions that don’t require a library science degree. Encourage someone you know to get that degree and join our profession!

Another session I went to was on Blockchain, Open Civic Data, and TV Whitespace – all ways for libraries to bring access to their communities. They are just beginning to research using these. But some websites to watch and find out more are:


I also went to a session sponsored by Demco where they talked about transforming event and collection discoverability with linked data. They have a product that takes your event data and makes it discoverable by Google – so, for example, someone searching for a yoga class in the area will have a library event come up, and it will be on top because of being free. Tagging with the location, the price (free), and the time the event happens all will help library events show up on top of search results. (Our library just got a new event system, so I’m not sure we can use this, but it is an exciting development.)

After the exciting Youth Media Awards announcements on Monday morning and breakfast with friends, I finished up my conference with the Morris Awards (for a debut novelist) and the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Awards. All the Finalists give speeches, and they let you choose five of the winners to take home with you (Yay!), so I love going to this event. Here are my notes on the speeches, with the Morris finalists beginning:

Nic Stone, Dear Martin
Such an honor to be part of everything happening right now! This book had a wild journey to publication, and it’s amazing to be here.

S. F. Henson, Devils Within
She’s dreamed of being a published author since she was 4 years old.
This book began when she saw a news article about a 10-year-old boy who killed his white supremacist father.
She grew up in the South – accustomed to be silent when people made racist comments.
When hate is all you know, how do you learn to love?
Nothing will change if people remain silent.
Books are a gateway to empathy.
Silence hurts people.
Seeds don’t grow on their own.

S. K. Ali, Saints and Misfits
Peace – the one thing our world needs.
What if we need inner peace first?
Her agent asked her: What if we looked for stories featuring young Muslim heroes?
Readers have told her, MeToo!
The main character has to grapple with the power of words. Words save us and break chains of shame.

Akemi Dawn Bowman, Starfish
Thank you for knowing how important stories are for teens.
Her book has trauma, racism, abuse, and feeling alone. So she’s sad when kids say they see themselves in the book – but glad they feel seen.

2018 Morris Award Winner:
Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

Her favorite rapper is Tupac. He’s never won an award, but he has changed lives – by acknowledging young people like she was.
The greatest achievement is sparking other brains.
It’s an honor to write for these young people.
Our world would be a better place if current political leaders read books about people who are not like them.
Be the light in the darkness.
The child you hand a book to today may some day be a president with a Twitter account.

Next came the Excellence in Nonfiction Finalists, though not all were present:

Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos, Eyes of the World
This is the second book they’ve written together and the second that’s been a finalist for this award.
Collectively the finalists give fresh approaches to nonfiction, books that take risks and experiment with voice.
For teens, many voices come at us at once.
“Good for reports” is over – these are “real books” with innovation and invention.
The story of the people in this book is also our story.
They were refugees from an anti-Semitic Fascist state.
The book was a year-long dive into photos she treasures.
A love story – and their book is, too.
Two refugees with a camera tried to stop Hitler before it was too late. (They did not succeed, but they still shed light.)
When hatred is the path to power, we must all fight with our own voices.

Dashka Slater, The 57 Bus
The story happened in her neighborhood. How could such a thing happen? But she asked follow-up questions.
We believe in the power of stories.
But the Truth isn’t always black and white.
That’s the beauty and power of nonfiction storytelling.
Young people are capable of understanding complexity and nuance. They require it.
The stories we give them must be as complicated as they are.
We live at a time when we place value on certainty.
Uncertainty is a humbler place – but it leads to investigation and understanding.
Give kids tools to do better next time – and give them a next time.
Give them true, complicated, and messy stories.

Deborah Heiligman, Vincent and Theo
(These remarks were delivered by her editor, Laura Godwin.)
She’s bolstered by a community of young adult nonfiction writers.
Writers are using new techniques.
The books “leave the world a souvenir.”
Without Theo, we wouldn’t have Vincent’s art.
Theo told Vincent to use more color, to lighten and brighten his pallette.
Vincent would envy us our community.

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