ITM 2022 Press Release

Contact:  Sabrina Carnesi, In the Margins Book Awards Committee Chair

January 31, 2022

SEATTLE, WA. – The In the Margins Book Awards (ITM) committee is pleased to announce their selection for overall top titles and Top Ten List for 2022.  In the Margins Book Award selections are inclusive of stories written for youth between the ages of 9 and 21, in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, and advocacy. Many books considered for this award are self-published and from smaller independent publishers.  The committee’s charge is inclusive of youth living a marginalized existence, with a specific focus on narratives and informational text that address the disproportionality of injustices experienced by BIPOC youth from the historical impact of cultural irrelevance and structural exclusion, which often finds them living in poverty, in the streets, in custody, or a cycle of all three.

In addition to reading and discussing a multitude of book titles published over the previous 18 months of the award year, a unique selection experience of the committee is the input received from young adults who have also read and directly shared their opinions on the same book titles.   Incorporating the enthusiastic response from youth who live the experiences of our charge is a vital component to generating this annual reading list which was initially intended as a selection tool for librarians who serve youth in juvenile detention facilities throughout the North American continent and has since spread to community outreach programs and schools throughout North America.

Covid-related bottlenecks were the 2022 committee’s greatest challenge. Supply chain problems touched every aspect of book production, storage, and distribution, causing a significant shortage in the fulfillment of requested titles.  With the shuttering of many library programs through the fall of 2022 and our charge requiring direct feedback from youth who are members of underrepresented groups, we turned to zoom meetups and book pickups at local schools and community outreach programs.  Where it was possible, we delivered books to local JD facilities and halfway houses whose staff acted as go-betweens for feedback on this year’s titles.  Another saving grace was bookstore customers and staff and the diligent communications between our committee with independent and major publishing houses in both the United States and Canada, as well as the self-published authors and small presses that went the distance with us when we hit the brick wall for the second year of the pandemic. These efforts made it possible for our lists to truly reflect not only the worlds of the youth who are members of the underrepresented in our North American Diaspora, they once again made it possible for our lists to provide a mirrored documentation of the past year’s struggled demands for long-overdue changes to the social injustices that are still silenced and in need of a voice. 

With that as background, the overall Top Titles selections in our advocacy and YA categories for 2022 are deeply rooted in the issues and demands that were voiced in the social and political climate of the past year, challenging the tsunami of disinformation and misinformation.  Those titles are:

Milo Imagines the World (Children’s Picture Book), written by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers (2021), won Top Title for Fiction.

As young Milo and his older sister take their weekly train ride, Milo draws pictures of the people he sees and the worlds he imagines they live in based on what they wear and how they look.  It isn’t until Milo sees a boy in a suit headed for the same place that he and his sister are heading that he starts to rethink the assumptions he’s made based on appearance, for they are all headed for a correctional facility to visit someone.  For Milo and his older sister, it’s their mom. This revelation helps the reader understand that you can’t judge a person by what they look like and what they wear.  Committee members express how books that cover incarceration are regularly set aside for youth who are underprivileged because of the single-story lens it is viewed through.  By highlighting Milo, such viewpoints can be decimated, allowing similar stories to be “shared with a broader population of youth from multiple socioeconomic backgrounds,” allowing them the understanding that incarceration does not affect one single color or socioeconomic background.

Run:  Book One (Young Adult Graphic Biography)written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by L. Fury and Nate Powell, published by Abrams ComicArts and Good Trouble Productions (2021) won Top Title for Nonfiction.

This sequel to Representative John Lewis’s March trilogy was published shortly after his death in the summer of 2021 and is considered the last of his direct personal notes on his life.  In this installation, the story picks up immediately after the events of Selma’s Bloody Sunday and the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  According to co-author Andrew Aydin, the reason the book was named Run:  Book One is that in the process of establishing a sustainable sense of justice, after you march to establish and/or correct change, you run for political positions to secure and protect the change with laws. The committee believes that “after great victories in which we overcome long-standing injustices, we often don’t know how or fail to follow through on what happens in the aftermaths of the victories.”  Given this pattern and what is happening in today’s world, it is essential to shine a light on this next chapter” by making Run:  Book One the Top Nonfiction Title for teens.

 Ferguson Library.  (2021, September 22).  Bringing History Alive: Andrew Aydin, Co-author of Run: Book One.  Retrieved from

The Rage of Innocence:  How America Criminalizes Black Youth (Adult),written by Kristin Henning, published by Pantheon (2021), won Top Title for Advocacy and Social Justice.

Kristin Henning is a renowned law professor and ex-public defender for the District of Columbia’s juvenile courts.  Research shows that Black youth are no more dangerous or impulsive than White youth, yet this book shows how little the public is aware of this information.  In this publication, author Kristin Henning shares her meticulous observations and research on just how systemically these skewed views are entrenched in this nation’s juvenile justice system and public consciousness.  The widespread attitudes held by police, educators, judges, attorneys, and politicians are destroying the lives of Black youths and their families.  The committee feels that in light of the solid and consistent advocacy against the lopsided disproportional arrest patterns of BIPOC youths, “the systemic injustices and biases of the juvenile justice system still prevail, and books such as The Rage of Innocence can serve as a compassionate and indispensable voice on behalf Black youth in particular.”

This year’s Top Ten List highlights the 33 titles that comprise the fiction, nonfiction, and advocacy lists posted on the book award’s website.  In the Margins Official 2022 Top Ten titles are as follows:

  1. Abe, Frank, Tamiko Nimura, Ross Ishikawa, and Matt Sasaki.  We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance at Wartime Incarceration.  May 2021. Chin Music Press. $19.99. Paperback. 160 pages. 9781634059763. Young Adult.  The collective history of three Japanese Americans who refused to accept the American government’s charge of sabotage and treason as the reason for imprisonment in the internment camps set up by the American government.  This is a graphic biography.
  1. De la Peña, Matt and Christian Robinson.   Milo Imagines the World.  February 2021, by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers.  $18.99.  Hardback.  40 pages.  ISBM 978529066319. Children’s Picture Book.  As young Milo and his older sister take their weekly train ride, Milo draws pictures of the people he sees and the worlds he imagines they live in based on what they wear and how they look.  It isn’t until Milo sees a boy in a suit headed for the same place that he and his sister are heading that he starts to rethink the assumptions he’s made based on appearance, for they are all headed for a correctional facility to visit someone.  For Milo and his older sister, it’s their mom. This revelation helps the reader understand that you can’t judge a person by what they look like and wear.
  1. Flake, Sharon G.  The Life I’m In (The Skin I’m #2). January 2021.  Scholastic Press.  $18.99.  Hardback.  336 pages. 9781338573176.  Young Adult.   In this sister story to the1998 The Skin I’m In, author Sharon Flake looks at the shattered world of Maleeka Madison’s tormentor Charlese “Char” Jones, whose older sister places her on a Greyhound bus to their grandparents in Alabama because of Char’s out of control behavior.  Before the end of the trip, Char exits the bus and becomes a runaway which leads her into the hands of human traffickers.
  1. Free Minds Writers.  They Called Me 299-359: Poetry by the Incarcerated Youth of Free Minds.  November 2020.  Shout Mouse Press.  $14.99.  Paperback.  120 pages.  9781950807154.  Young Adult.  The Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop members are a group of incarcerated youth in Washington, DC, who compiled and edited this anthology of poetry and essays that serve as the authors’ testimonies to their experiences of incarceration, challenge, and growth.
  1. Kpadea, Emolie, Japan Spells, Damarco Taylor, and Rob Gibson. And Justice for Who? November 2020.  Shout Mouse Press.  $11.99. Paperback.  38 pages.  9781950807093. Picture Book for Older Readers.  When a Black Lives Matter protest ends in police violence, friends Cody and Nene do not share the same opinion.  Nene has an uncle and is in defense of the police while Cody is not.  Their opposition pulls the friends farther apart until the day they share an incredible experience that mends their rift and leads them to a better understanding.
  1. Lewis, John, Andrew Aydin, L. Fury, and Nate Powell.  Run:  Book One.  August 2021.  Abrams.  $24.99.  Hardback.  160 pages.  9781419730696.  Young Adult.  In this follow-up series to Representative John Lewis’s life story, Run, Book One looks at the dramatic transitions and struggles Representative Lewis went through after participating in the March on Selma and the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act during the Civil Rights Movement.  Many of the lessons shared from the representative’s life align with today’s struggles. This is a graphic biography.
  1. Man, Chella and Ashley Lukashevsky.  Continuum (A Pocket Change Collective).  June 2021.  Penguin Workshop, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers.  $8.99.  Paperback.  64 pages.  9780593223482.  Young Adult.  Chella Man uses his experiences as a deaf, genderqueer, transgender, Jewish youth of color to encourage others to embrace their identity and cultivate a sense of self-acceptance as they grow in strength to advocate for themselves. This is an illustrated informational text.
  1. Mickelson, Marcia Argueta.  Where I Belong.  September 2021.  Carolrhoda Lab.  Hardback.  264 pages.  $18.99.  9781541597976.  Young Adult.  Seventeen-year-old Millie Vargas lives with her mom, who immigrated to Texas from Guatemala when Millie was an infant.  Unlike the negative imagery portrayed in the news and social media, Millie defies stereotypes and will be graduating high school with a full academic scholarship to a local 4-year college.  Her problem arises when her mother’s employer wants to exploit her success for political purposes.
  1. Rouse, Victorya. Finding Refuge:  Real Life Immigration Stories From Young People. September 2021. Zest Books. $14.99. Paperback. 264 pages. 9781541581609. Young Adult.  Victorya Rouse is an ESL teacher in Spokane, Washington.  In this anthology, she shares the immigration stories of former students from various global cultures in her high school ESL class.  Many fled war-torn countries and sought relief from political and religious persecution and gang and drug violence.
  1. Velasquez, Elisabet. When We Make It.  September 2021.  Dial, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers.  $19.99.  Hardback. 384 pages. 9780593324486. Middle Grades and Young Adult.  Set in 1996, this story-in-verse of 13-year-old Sarai, a first-generation Puerto Rican, is set in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood.  Sarai is in eighth grade and trying very hard to navigate successfully through the poverty, family trauma, misogyny, and housing insecurity of a neighborhood embedded with drug abuse, police brutality, and gentrification, in hopes of securing her family’s hope of securing the American dream.

The 2022 committee comprises juried and non-juried members – librarians and library academics currently working with youth who experience the challenging circumstances of marginalized issues represented in the selected titles. Members of the 2022 juried committee are:

  • Sabrina Carnesi, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
  • Amy Cheney, Founding Member, Dir. of Oakland Unified Schools, Oakland, CA
  • Marvin DeBose, Philadelphia Free Libraries, Philadelphia, PA
  • Isaiah Hurtado, Marin County Free Libraries, San Anselmo, CA
  • Dr. Rae Anne Montague, Chicago State University, Chicago, IL

The complete set of 3 lists is located on the Award Page for the book award website.  Click here for new book submissions

The committee is currently seeking out additional members.  Please access this Membership application if you are interested in applying.

For additional information, please contact the committee at

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