Infinite Hope: Ashley Bryan's 2020 BGHB Nonfiction Award Speech

Dear Awards Committee, Staff, Family and Friends of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award,

I would like to humbly express my gratitude to you for selecting me as the 2020 recipient of this prestigious award for Infinite Hope.

As I held up my award, which is a replica of the “Liberty Bowl” first commissioned by the Sons of Liberty in 1767 for the silversmith and fellow member Paul Revere to create, I noticed how light from every direction is reflected off it. It first occurred to me how Infinite Hope can be perceived through the light of knowledge and understanding of those, both young and old, who read it. As we turn the bowl in different directions, so do we approach the breadth of meaning my WWII experiences had for me, and how they may be understood by you. Much of what I experienced then, we revisit today, with the many ways we understand and deliver our embrace of humanity. By selecting Infinite Hope as an outstanding nonfiction book, the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards committee is encouraging the public not only to read it because of its importance, but also to have hope for our future. It is through this hope that we strive for change and work at accomplishing it.

[Read Horn Book reviews of the 2020 BGHB Nonfiction winners.]

I have had one passion throughout my life, and that is my art. Being able to focus on my art gave me the strength I needed to persevere during the war. It was my light. It was my solace. It brought me through. And, now, at ninety-seven, I am able to look back and reflect on what my life has been. I smile. Somewhere over those many years, I came to acknowledge the “child within me” — the joy of living and sharing with others — that to create, no matter what it is, gives meaning to this life. It gives importance to family, community, and all of humanity. When our lives are lived in order to create and bring happiness to others, we are making a significant contribution to an ever-advancing civilization; we are fulfilling our mission.

I have spent my time here contributing to the world of children’s literature to be read and treasured by all, not just children. My stories and poems, whether original or retold, have always been meant to delight and teach. My illustrations and collage bring dreams alive, and they are meant to dance with fluid line and color to capture the eye and bring smiles to faces. My stained glass pieces pay homage to the sacred as well as introduce facets of my exposure to religion and inform us of our spiritual origins. And my puppets — oh my! They are my children of joy.

Receiving this award is a wonderful acknowledgment of my life’s efforts as well as an affirmation of the importance of Infinite Hope. The writing of this book was often difficult. Having to recall the acts of war is never pleasant, but having to recall the acts of racism, which persist today, is most disturbing. We have recently celebrated the seventy-sixth anniversary of D-Day, when the armed forces fought for freedom, and yet we still struggle to embrace humanity as one family.

I would like to thank my publisher, Caitlyn Dlouhy, the staff of Simon & Schuster, and all those who supported me, for recognizing the importance of this book. I am so honored!

From the January/February 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more on the 2020 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB20. Read more from The Horn Book by and about Ashley Bryan.

Ashley Bryan

Ashley Bryan is the winner of the 2012 Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement and the 2009 Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal. In 2017 he won the Boston Globe–Horn Book Picture Book Award for Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life, and in 2020 he won the Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Award for Infinite Hope: A Black Artist's Journey from World War II to Peace.

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