Your Legacy: Tonya Engel's 2022 BGHB Nonfiction Honor Speech

This is the very first time I’ve ever received an award for my art. How wonderful is that? When I tell you that author Schele Williams and I put our hearts and our souls and our energy and our love into creating this book, I truly mean it. If you have an opportunity to pick it up, you will see why I feel that this is one of the best books I’ve read all year. I wish that it had been around when I was a kid; I personally learned so much.

One of the joys of being an illustrator is sometimes having the opportunity to learn things that you did not know. That is what happened here. I learned so much about African American history, our heritage, and our inventions that I had never heard of before. And what a wonderful opportunity for me to pour out my own heart onto the page and share with the next generation the wonderful things that I learned. The joy of our heritage, our history, our ancestry, the colors that make up our identity, some details about Africa that probably people from Africa may not even know, but that I definitely never knew growing up as a child.

[Read Horn Book reviews of the 2022 BGHB Nonfiction winners.]

I’m really thankful to have had this opportunity. This is what it’s all about. Creating joy, bringing something from within ourselves to share with the world, and maybe even influencing the next generation to bring forth beauty from within themselves as well. So for our future artists out there who are wondering if they should follow their dreams — they should follow and have faith that they were given a gift for a reason. I am walking testimony that you should never give up on your dreams. Persevere, push forward, study, find mentors, never stop, always practice, always create. And never let anyone tell you that you can’t. The possibilities are endless. Thank you so much for this award for Your Legacy. I’m honored.

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more on the 2022 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB22. Read more from The Horn Book by and about Tonya Engel.

Tonya Engel

Tonya Engel is the illustrator of the 2022 Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Honor book Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History, written by Schele Williams.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.