March 16, 2018
Dear AILA membership,
The Youth Literature Awards Committee and the Executive Board write to express full support for the people harmed by Sherman Alexie. We believe and commend the writers who have spoken up and extend our heartfelt compassion to those who have chosen to remain silent.
As librarians we have a significant influence on books that schools and libraries select. The AILA Youth Literature Awards were established in 2006 to honor Native authors and illustrators. The books we select represent the very best for our kids and our communities. We believe that writers are members of our communities who we can look to as role models for our youth.
We cannot, therefore, recommend Mr. Alexie’s books, and we have decided to rescind our 2008 Best YA Book Award for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. In rescinding this award, we hope to send an unequivocal message that Alexie’s actions are unacceptable.
Sexual harassment and abuse are not easy to report and discuss. If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual assault or harassment, one resource you can turn to is the Strong Hearts Helpline at http://www.strongheartshelpline.org/about/ .
Hope and healing can be found in books like #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American women. We selected it as our Best YA Book for 2018. #NotYourPrincess is a powerful anthology by Native American and First Nations women sharing their experiences through poems, essays, interviews, and art. It is one of many that AILA has selected for its awards. See information about the 2018 winners at http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2018/02/2018-aila-youth-literature-awards-announced.
The youth we serve today are here because their ancestors fought for their future and the well-being of their nations. It is in that spirit with which we write to you today.
Sincerely, AILA Youth Lit Committee
AILA Executive Board