It was my pleasure this year to begin a three-year term serving on the Américas Award Review Committee. Thus it is with an unusually personal appreciation that I share with you today the 2013 Américas Award Winning Title: The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano.
This year’s winner, The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano (Scholastic, 2012), is a striking portrayal of a young woman’s coming of age in 1960s New York. Evelyn Serrano, the novel’s protagonist, experiences firsthand what Américas Award committee member América Calderón called a “key yet seldom taught story,” that of the Puerto Rican civil rights organization the Young Lords. Through Evelyn’s maturing perspective, readers gain insight into the history of the Young Lords movement as well as relevant Puerto Rican history set on the island itself. The novel is appropriate for middle and high school students. This is the first novel by writer Sonia Manzano, although many readers will be familiar with her already from her long-time role as “Maria” on the acclaimed television series Sesame Street.
You may remember this book from Ailesha’s earlier prescient and informative post about it: ¡Mira Look!: The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano.
Since Ailesha has already covered the novel with due diligence, I’m going to switch focus here for a moment and talk more about the award itself. I’ll offer an insider’s note, if you will, on the management and coordination of the award, as well as who gets to select the recipients and the reasoning behind that process.
First, who manages the award?
The award is managed through the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP), an organization that facilitates linkages and resource-sharing among institutions whose missions in some way “promote all facets of Latin American studies throughout the world.” Several CLASP member institutions, including our office, the UNM Latin American and Iberian Institute, support the award financially through CLASP. Special recognition is also due to the 2013 coordinators for the award, Claire González at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Latin American Studies and Denise Woltering at Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies.
Second, who selects the award recipients?
The Review Committee is responsible for reviewing and selecting the award recipients. The committee is composed of individuals from across the country whose work pertains to children’s literature and young adult literature by and about Latino and Latin American cultures. This year it was my honor to serve alongside América Calderón from Teaching for Change in Washington, D.C.; Hope Crandall from Washington Elementary School in Oregon; Barbara D’Ambruoso from Lauralton Hall, CT; and Aaron Forbes from Morris Jeff Community School in New Orleans.
Third, how the selection process happens:
The Review Committee reads a wide collection of relevant titles published in the year before (2012, in this case) and then meets multiple times via video conferencing to handle the difficult task of whittling down the full compendium to only a few highly notable titles. I’m rather pleased to say that the decision process was not easy; we had a large selection of titles from which to choose, many of which were exceptional in one regard or another.
Fourth, and finally, criteria for selection:
Ultimately, however, the Américas Award has a strict set of criteria that limits the number of books to be recognized. Titles are judged overall for how well they offer fit within the niche topic of “children’s and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States.” Then, in addition to that, the Review Committee further distills the list by evaluating based on four criteria: (1) distinctive literary quality; (2) cultural contextualization; (3) exceptional integration of text, illustration, and design; and, (4) potential for classroom list.
By the end of the many Review Committee discussions and email exchanges, it was clear that The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano deserved our highest commendation. Speaking for myself, it was both a delight and inspiration to read. I hope you’ll get the chance to read it yourself and share it with your students!