Contact: Sabrina Carnesi, In the Margins Book Awards Committee Chair
February 9, 2023
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 2023. Selections by In the Margins are inclusive of stories written for youth between the ages of 9 and 21, in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, and social justice 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. Its use as a selection tool has since spread to community outreach programs and secondary schools throughout North America.
Distribution bottlenecks from the previous two awards years was still the 2023 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. It is also becoming harder to contact authors who self-publish, due to a growing concern to protect personal information that can be easily detected in search histories. A positive development and saving grace was the opening up, restart, and continuance of libraries, JD facilities’ outreach, and schools, which allow us to fulfill our charge, requiring direct feedback from youth who are members of underrepresented groups. Another saving grace was the diligent communications carried out 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. All were aware of the sluggish distribution and went the distance with us when realizing the multiple requests being made. 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 titles in our advocacy and YA categories for 2023 show deep roots in gender and sexual identity recognition, mental illness, and voices of adolescents who find themselves trapped in the social and political climate of our nation’s broken legal system. The overall Top Title from each of these lists are:
Ain’t Burned All the Bright (Young Adults) written by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Jason Griffin, published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy, Simon & Schuster, Inc. (2022), won Top Title for Fiction.
Jason Reynolds teams up with his friend, visual artist Jason Griffin, to present a mix-media illustration of his three-sentenced narrative poem that depicts the perspectives of a young Black boy and his family during the 2020 COVID pandemic. The collaboration between wordsmith and artist brilliantly portrays the heaviness of a pandemic quarantine that forces people inside glued to their digital screens while juxtaposed against the protests and violence committed against others on the outside. Committee members express the need for contemporary fiction that shows the world through the eyes of young Black males as a “critical bridge to bring about empathy and normalize understandings for Black male youths who are highly targeted by society.” By highlighting Ain’t Burned All the Bright, such viewpoints can “reconstruct the meanings of why advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion say ‘no lives matter until Black lives matter.”
Jump: My Secret Journey From the Streets to the Boardroom (Older Teens and Up), written by Larry Miller with Laila Lacy, published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins (2022), won Top Title for Nonfiction.
When Larry Miller was 16, he belonged to a Philadelphia street gang, experiencing a life of run-ins with police and spending numerous time in jail, including a stint for murder. While in prison, he experienced restoration, leading him to earn a college degree and turn his life around. Larry Miller currently serves as the chairman of Michael Jordan’s Nike brand, residing on the West Coast. The committee believes in the power of restorative justice programs for juveniles, for it “encourages accountability and ownership of the crimes, and unproductive actions and mindsets…helping youths to understand the implications of their behavior better and take advantage of opportunities to lift and strengthen their self-belief, so as to aid development” into forward-thinking and better-functioning adults. Given the rise in the voices that advocate for broader use of restorative justice programs for adults and juvenile offenders, “it is critical to focus on a personality who has experienced a successful outcome in such programs, as evidenced in Jump: My Secret Journey From the Streets to the Boardroom.”
Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo (Older Teens and Up), written by Mansoor Adayfi, published by Hachette Books, an Imprint of Perseus Books, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. (2021), won Top Title for Advocacy and Social Justice.
Mansoor Adayfi was only eighteen years old when he left Yemen, was kidnapped by warlords, then trapped in Guantánamo prison for fourteen years. In both beautiful and horrific detail we witness a child grow to manhood behind the decaying walls of one of the most secretive prisons in the world. Despite torture and a denial of the most basic human rights, this is a beautiful story of hope, perseverance, and triumph. The committee feels that the story of Mansoor Adayfi’s narrative is a stunning eye-opening account of what incarceration looked like for the 18-year-old innocent who was kidnapped while on a mission trip to Afghanistan, and incarcerated in one of the world’s most notorious incarceration facilities. The blatant mismanagement of this youth’s life “brings attention to the atrocities of incarceration young males of color face on a global scale,” making books such as Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo a must read for a first-hand account the prison industrial complex has beyond the walls of this nation.
This year’s Top Ten List highlights the 43 titles that comprise the fiction, nonfiction, and advocacy and social justice lists posted on the book award’s website. In the Margins Official 2023 Top Ten titles are as follows:
- Blank, Natalie. The Tangibles.March 2022. Fire & Ice Young Adult Books, an imprint of Melange Books. $13.99. Paperback. 246 pages. 9781955784757. Young Adults. Seventeen-year-old Rachel has suffered from schizophrenia since middle school. While she doesn’t like to take her medicine on a regular basis, she knows how to avoid relapse. It seems no matter what she does to look normal, she’s still treated as an outcast by her classmates, and her new boyfriend doesn’t help with matters.
- Bush, Charles A. Every Variable of Us. February 2022. North Star Editions. $17.99. Hardback. 376 pages. 9781635830745. Young Adults. When Alexis Duncan, a sixteen-year-old queer teen, tries to overcome the entrapment of her poverty-stricken Philadelphia neighborhood by keeping her stats up to earn a basketball scholarship to college, her plans come to a standstill when she suffers permanent damage from a gang altercation. Now, all that’s left is the academic route, and for her new plan to succeed, Lex will have to shed every single trait of her old lifestyle to make this work.
- Cronn-Mills, Kirstin. Gender Inequality in Sports from Title IX to World Titles. April 2022. Twenty-First Century Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group. $37.32 Hardback. 120 pages. 9781728419473. Young Adults.Title IX is fifty years old and is purposed to protect people in federally funded programs from discrimination based on sex. With a broader field of identity development, this book supports a stronger awareness of the need to look to the future on how this law can bring about greater equality in the area of the world of sports and gender and sexual identity.
- Free Minds Writers. When You Hear Me, You Hear Us: Voices of Youth Incarcerated. August 2021. Shout Mouse Press. $14.99. Paperback. 288 pages. 9781950807345. Young Adults. In this anthology of poetry and prose, readers can hear the voices of youth charged and incarcerated in the adult criminal legal system. The collection of work challenges readers to call out for accountability, transformative justice, and healing in this nation’s legal system.
- Goodman, Juliana. The Black Girl Left Standing. June 2022. Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers. $18.99. Hardback. 376 pages. 9781250792815. Young Adults. In the aftermath of her sister’s death by a White policeman, Beau knows her sister Katia was innocent of what she was being accused of on the police report. Katia’s boyfriend is the only witness to the incident, but cannot be found. So to help her with this dilemma, she creates an anonymous Twitter account to collect clues on the case. This however turns south, when she starts to receive threats against herself. This story is so much more than the tragedy of loss, emphasizing importance of family and friends, the realities of poverty, and the power of forgiveness.
- Grann, David. Killers of the Flower Moon: Adapted for Young Readers: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. November, 2021. Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House. $18.99. Hardback. 336 pages. 9780593377345. Young Adults. In the 1920s, the Osage Nation in Oklahoma were the richest people in the world, per capita, due to the oil on their reservation land, but those in power began to kill off each member of the nation, including those who tried to investigate the problem. As the death toll rose a new Bureau of Investigation emerged, known today as the FBI.
- Martin, Jetta Grace, Joshua Bloom, and Waldo E. Martin, Jr. Freedom! The Story of the Black Panther Party. January 2022. Levine Querido. $19.99. Hardback. 384 pages. 9781646140930. Young Adults. This well-researched title focuses on the founding members of the Black Panther Party, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, emphasizing the groups’ Promise to the People, which was incorporated in the organization’s Ten Point Platform. The authors purposely wrote this as a resource for younger readers, using lots of wide margins and blocked text.
- Miller, Larry with Laila Lacy. Jump: My Secret Journey From the Streets to the Boardroom. January 2022. William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. $27.99. Hardback. 304 pages. 9780062999818. Older Teens and Up. When Larry Miller was 16, he belonged to a Philadelphia street gang, experiencing a life of run-ins with police and spending numerous time in jail, including a stint for murder. While in prison, he experienced restoration, leading him to earn a college degree and turn his life around. Larry Miller currently serves as the chairman of Michael Jordan’s Nike brand, residing on the West Coast.
- Reynolds, Jason and Jason Griffin. Ain’t Burned all the Bright January 2022. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy, Simon & Schuster, Inc. $19.99. Hardback. 384 pages. 9781534439467. Young Adults. Jason Reynolds teams up with his friend, visual artist Jason Griffin, to present a mix-media illustration of his three-sentenced narrative poem that depicts the perspectives of a young Black boy and his family during the 2020 COVID pandemic. The collaboration between wordsmith and artist brilliantly portrays the heaviness of a pandemic quarantine that forces people inside glued to their digital screens while juxtaposed against the protests and violence committed against others on the outside.
- Troncoso, Sergio. Nobody’s Pilgrims. May 2022. Cinco Puntos Press. Young Adult Books. $16.95. Paperback. 264 pages. 9781947627413. Older Teens and Emerging Adults. In this suspense-filled dystopian adventure, three diverse teen runaways are chased by a drug cartel across the east coast from the Texas frontera to New England, experiencing the dangers and real problems of homelessness and being undocumented during an epidemic health crisis that has a pandemic effect throughout the world.
The 2023 committee comprises juried and non-juried members – librarians, library supervisors, and library academics currently working with youth who experience the challenging circumstances of marginalized issues represented in the selected titles. Members of the 2023 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, Oakland Public Library, Oakland, CA; and
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.