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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Little Extra on Awards to Go with CSK Post


As I posted Nick’s links on CSK I was thinking it a bit odd for me to do so, since I had long ago critiqued the CSK rules — the requirement that a winner, or one winner in a team, be African American: And to add to the mix, this Monday, YALSA holds a reception for the five finalists for its new NF award — an award for which I was an early advocate. So here are three crossing strands: I disagree with limiting qualification by ethnicity; I promote an award that has that rule; and I advocate for a new award that has its own restriction (NF). How come?
       Intellectually I still do not agree with the idea of using ethnicity to define eligibility — not for CSK, not for Pura Belpre, not at all. If anything, my sense of how tangled and confused ethnicity is has grown stronger. For example — the headlines today are all about Haiti. One reason for the misery in that country is because its neighbor, the Dominican Republic, defines itself as not-Haitian, that is to say, not African. So a person from DR is Hispanic (eligible for Pura Belpre) but — no matter how "African" he or she might seem in a US model — not eligible for CSK — b/c that person is self defined as not black. I don’t see why an award for kids books should get tangled in that morass. And, if anyone asks, yes I apply this just as much to Israel, where I think a crucial problem is that Arab citizens are citizens and yet the nation is defined as a Jewish state. 
      As a practical matter, though, I think it is good to shine a light on books dealing with African American experiences, or Hispanic, or Muslim, or Jewish, or First American or Asian — to bring to the forefront books that too often are seen as of interest primarily to a minority. We do need to know, to share, to honor, to be interested in all of our heritages and cultures. Books that do this well, books that feature the talents of artists who might otherwise be slighted, deserve special attention.
     And that leads to NF — I already see that having a YA NF award makes people aware that YA NF exists — much as Sibert gave new attention to NF for kids up through age 14. 

So I am glad to draw attention to CSK, to the books, to the artists, to (most of) the cause for which it stands. And yet at the same time I still resist any ethnic exclusions — in awards, in politics, anywhere. Happy 40th CSK — and on to a future where authenticity is defined by level of knowledge and experience, not by something as contentious and questionable as ethnicity or race.


  1. I, too, wonder why, at a time when we are trying to dispose of racial and ethnic divisions, we make include or exclude so many based on these very things. Many awards, scholarships, and beauty pagaents only allow you to enter if you belong to one group. I understand celebrating your heritage, but isn’t this discrimination? My children, of mixed heritage, have to chose to ignore one-half of their ethnicity in order to qualify for many scholarships. It seems to send a mixed message. Grades, organizations, activities, areas of studies make sense. I’m not sure race or ethnicity should determine whether you win a contest or a scholarship.

  2. Deborah Taylor says:

    Marc, of course if this were a perfect world and we were not dealing with our country’s tortured racial past, I could find some common ground in your comments. We have to have mechanism to encourage African American writers and illustrators. Not every top notch illustrator can wait as long as Jerry Pinkney did for Caldecott recognition. I am proud that he was a multiple oretta Scott King winner over all these years.

  3. point taken — I was pleased for Walter and Charles (he and I have book that we edited together coming out next year) and to see Bad News for Outlaws on the list —