National Book Awards come to SHSU

Every year in the US hundreds of novels are published, some are good, some are awful, but there are always those special few that are spectacular and make their audience not only think, but also feel. Out of those hundreds of books, every year 20 are chosen by a panel of judges to see which deserve the National book award.

The National Book Awards are returning to Sam.

For those who are unaware of what this is event is; The National Book Award is an annual literary prize distributed to successful authors by the National Book Foundation. Some of the award winners include John Cheever, Katherine Anne Porter, Flannery O’ Connor, Elizabeth Bishop, and Alice Walker. The award was established in 1950 and has since become divided into four categories: Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Young People’s Literature.

On April 24 at 7 P.M. In the LSC ballroom, some of the award winners will be present for a visual reading of their book. Afterwards they will all be available for signings of their novels.

For the year of 2017 the winner of the section for young people’s literature, was “The March Trilogy”. The March Trilogy acts as an autobiography of John Lewis as he grows up during the era of segregation and his experiences during those times, from “Bloody Sunday”, Brown V. Board of Education and The Freedom Riders to The Birmingham Church Bombing and the Selma to Montgomery Marches.

“March is a beautifully illustrated and compellingly written story that reminds us of the daily importance of the struggle for equality. In one sense, it is historical–focused on Congressman John Lewis and his memories of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s–but it remains timely, as our present moment reminds us, unfortunately and all too often, that the need for such movements–and such activism–does not ever really end,” said Dr. Scott Kaukonen, professors organizing the event and director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing.

Dr. Amanda Nowlin-O’Banion is a visiting professor of creative writing and is helping with organizing the National Book Awards event at Sam. She studied the civil rights movement and found the book to be an accurate representation of history but was a hurried version.

“I think it’s fantastic, it puts the civil rights movement into a frame that I could not have seen the same way before reading this book. Of course I’ve studied civil rights and history, I knew about most every single thing that happened in these books, but reading the trilogy seemed to stack the events on top of one another in a way that just made them even more unfathomable in their cruelty and I could not feel it the same way studying it in history as I did reading these books,” said Dr. Nowlin-O’Banion.

Fifth District of Georgia Representative John Lewis is co-author of the trilogy. He has been often referred to as “one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced,” and “the conscious on the U.S. congress.” John Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee.  In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Lewis risked his life on those Rides many times by simply sitting in seats reserved for white patrons.  He was also beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South. He led over 600 peaceful, orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965 but they were unfortunately stopped and beaten by Alabama state troopers, yet he still held onto his non-violence philosophy.

He has received numerous awards from eminent national and international institutions, including the highest civilian honor granted by President Barack Obama, the Medal of Freedom, the Lincoln Medal from the historic Ford’s Theatre, the Golden Plate Award given by the Academy of Excellence, the Preservation Hero award given by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Capital Award of the National Council of La Raza,  the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize, the President’s Medal of Georgetown University, the NAACP Spingarn Medal, the National Education Association Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award, and the only John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage Award” for Lifetime Achievement ever granted by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

Co-Author Andrew Aydin currently serves as Digital Director and Policy Advisor to Representative Lewis. He met representative Lewis after coming under his employment, the two discussed the events and produced March. Some of his more recent works include 2016 “X-Files Annual” (IDW), the 2016 “CBLDF Annual Liberty” (Image), and an upcoming issue of “Bitch Planet” (Image), as well as articles for the Atlanta alt-weekly “Creative Loafing” and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Teaching Tolerance” Magazine.

Illustrator Nate Powell is the first cartoonist to ever win the Nation Book award. He served as illustrator of the March Trilogy. Some of his other work includes “You Don’t Say”, “Any Empire”, “Swallow Me Whole”, “The Silence Of Our Friends”, “The Year Of The Beasts”, and Rick Riordan’s “The Lost Hero”. Along with cartooning, he did full time work supporting adults with developmental disabilities.

“As someone who writes and who teaches writing, as someone who believes in the power of language and story to affect change (even if only one reader at a time and only in incremental ways), I’m always pleased when we can introduce writers and writing to our community that is powerful and engaging and accessible to a wide-range of readers. March is just that. But I’m also thrilled that we’ll be able to hear from Congressman Lewis, someone who has played such an iconic role in the Civil Rights Movement, and who remains active in its cause. For our event this year, it’s a wonderful opportunity,” said Dr. Kaukonen.

Due to the busy schedule of the congressman they will only be in Huntsville for the day of the event, if you have the opportunity go out to see them and learn a new perspective on a dark era in American history.

“It’s free and it’s meant to enrich the lives of people in this county, I grew up here and I am everyday trying to make this and add to the literary community… this is a rare opportunity that could be life changing for students,” said Dr. Nowlin-O’Banion.

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