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ALA 2018: So many choices, so little time, wear comfy shoes

ALA is like a Choose Your Own Adventure, with myriad paths to follow. I missed out on a lot (Michelle Obama and Carla Hayden, Trombone Shorty, the sold-out CSK Breakfast — see Martha’s post), but everything I did see left me invigorated and in awe.

Alia Jones, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Joseph Bruchac, Dawn Quigley

Saturday morning began with the “Native YA Today: Contemporary Indigenous Voices and Heroes for the 21st Century & Beyond” panel, moderated by Alia Jones with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Dawn Quigley, and Joseph Bruchac. The panelists discussed the lack of Native representation in children’s and YA lit and the dangers of the single (and often just plain wrong) narrative. They paid homage to Debbie Reese (“Read Debbie’s blog!”) and bestowed a blanket on Joseph Bruchac’s shoulders, noting the work both have done to amplify Native voices. Yuyi Morales was watching, and I got to thank her for this superlative Horn Book Magazine cover.

Terry Young, Uma Krishnaswami, Thi Bui, Bao Phi, Anne Sibley O’Brien

The President’s Program session “Wandering Wonderland: How an Outsider Found Her Way In,” moderated by Dora Ho, VP/President Elect of the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (which, along with the American Indian Library Association and the Association of Jewish Libraries, will newly have its awards announced at next year’s Youth Media Awards), featured prolific children’s book creator LeUyen Pham. Just as she was getting to some juicy parts about Vietnamese fairy-tale princesses (who did not usually get their happy endings), I had to duck out to “Unpacking the Immigrant Experience: Creating a Space for New Arrivals,” where Boston Globe–Horn Book honorees for A Different Pond Bao Phi and Thi Bui were speaking, along with Uma Krishnaswami and Terry Young, moderated by Anne Sibley O’Brien. Their memories of their own families’ immigration stories, juxtaposed with what’s happening today, were personal and heartfelt; and there was some practical discussion, too, about how to justify print runs for titles perceived as “niche.”

Lunch would make you too jealous, so I’ll just say: DC-area librarians, your incoming president of DCLA, Nicholas Brown (formerly of the Library of Congress), has some great projects surrounding the arts, libraries, and community building. And he can sing. At the exhibits I saw the Crown crowd — publisher Denene Millner with Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James, and their agent Regina Brooks (the first book she repped was a BGHB winner!). I met the new Groundwood publisher, Semareh Al-Hillal, and saw many publishing friends. At Abrams’s dinner for Andrea Beaty’s new Questioneers chapter book series, I got to meet Hijabi Librarians cofounder Ariana Hussain, conferred with Michelle H. Martin about Roger’s job qualifications for Camp Read-a-Rama, and heard Michelle’s real-life Snakes on a Plane story (laugh…and shudder).

On Sunday morning I was able to thank Kekla Magoon in person for her “Un-Hero’s Journey” article that touched so many Horn Book readers. I watched four of the 2018 Pura Belpré winners — Ruth Behar, Juana Martinez-Neal, Pablo Cartaya, and Celia C. Pérez (whose book The First Rule of Punk is also a 2018 BGHB honoree!) do a live taping of The Yarn with Travis Jonker. I heard about robot dinosaur sex (it made sense at the time) at the Alex Awards panel. I ate lunch with a couple hundred of my closest friends — and authors Alex Gino, Daniel José Older, Jaclyn Moriarty, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, and Kody Keplinger — courtesy of Scholastic. I got to go with incoming ALSC board member, 2018 Newbery Committee member, and Boston Public librarian Sujei Lugo Vázquez and Liz the Librarian to the Pura Belpré Award Celebración for the first time (it won’t be the last — it was one of my favorite things, as Oprah and Julie Andrews might say) and ponder: “What would Pura do?” Then on to “Brilliance, Magic and Black Girls,” moderated by Edi Campbell with Zetta Elliott, Denene Millner, and Sarah Hannah Gómez. After debunking the idea that “black girl magic” might indicate that black girls are anything less than human beings (!), the panelists spoke about the pressures young women face, the messages they’re given by society, and how each of the panelists was able to find her own brilliance.

Jacqueline Woodson accepts the 2018 Children’s Literature Legacy Award

And then came the Newbery, Caldecott, Legacy (!!) Banquet. Thanks to HarperCollins and Greenwillow — publisher of this year’s Newbery winner Hello, Universe — for letting me sit with you and catch up with my BGHB committee-mate Jonathan Hunt (and to Susan Kusel and Susannah Richards for their various alerts). You can read the Newbery, Caldecott, and CSK Author and Illustrator Awards speeches, along with profiles of the winners, in the July/August Horn Book and on Hbook.com; and Jacqueline Woodson’s Legacy speech will be in the September/October issue (because, yes, as she said, how could she have written it before, not knowing what might happen?).

At the airport on Monday, there were so many Boston-area publishing people on the same flight as mine: Horn Bookers Roger and Martha; former Horn Booker (and current Candlewicker) Karen Walsh; librarians Julie Roach, Liz Phipps Soeiro, and Laura Koenig; authors Malinda Lo, M. T. Anderson, Sara Farizan, and Nova Ren Suma. Their ALA Choose Your Own Adventure journeys were different than mine — but all food for thought at the next Children’s Books Boston gathering!

If you’re still with me: over the past few weeks I have found myself in so many different spaces with so many different people talking about finding that one title or author that finally let them see themselves in a book. Let’s keep amplifying ourselves and each other, with our words and our dollars, until that old myth of scarcity that Dr. Gray so eloquently explains becomes ancient history once and for all.

For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ALA 2018.

A Horn Book editor (Elissa Gershowitz, in loud flowers) and a 2018 BGHB honoree (Celia C. Pérez, in vertical stripes) and their comfy shoes. Photo: Celia C. Pérez

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She is a current member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.

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Comments

  1. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    And at my Awards Banquet table, I sat next to the person who NAMED the Choose Your Own Adventure series (as a tot), Clarion publisher Dinah Stevenson, who spent her editorial assistant years at Bantam.

  2. Elissa Gershowitz Elissa Gershowitz says:

    Wow! And: uh-oh. To paraphrase Nina Lindsay to Matthew Cordell on the banquet stage (re: use of Caldecott seal in self-pitying wolf illo): will she talk to me later about the licensing fees?

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