JUNE 3RD, 2013

2013 Américas Award Announced

For Immediate Release

May 29, 2013

Sonia Manzano wins 2013 Américas Award

WASHINGTON, DC — Sonia Manzano, author of The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano won the 2013 Américas Award. This book was awarded the 2013 award which engagingly portrays Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States. The award links the Americas to reach beyond geographic borders, as well as multicultural-international boundaries, focusing instead upon cultural heritages within the hemisphere. The awards were announced today by the Consortium for Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP), during the Latin American Studies Association meeting held May 29 — June 1 in Washington, DC.

The awards are administered by CLASP and coordinated by both Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and Vanderbilt University’s Center for Latin American Studies.

Award Winner
The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, published by Scholastic highlights two revolutions: the Young Lords in the community of East Harlem and Evelyn Serrano’s own coming of age. Committee member América Calderón found that “the two intertwine, making this an engaging and educational story for middle and high school students. Sonia Manzano sets this historical fiction in 1969, when the Young Lords occupy a church, calling attention to the need for free breakfast and other community programs. The book is an ideal introduction for students to the Young Lords, a key yet seldom taught story Puerto Ricans in the modern Civil Rights Movement. (The Young Lords were established in 1968 in various cities in the U.S. as “a human rights movement for self determination for Puerto Rico and other nations, and for neighborhood controlled development and empowerment.”)

Author, Sonia Manzano, is best known for her role as “Maria” on the acclaimed television series Sesame Street. While Manzano is an Emmy Award winner for her television writing, this is her first novel.

The Américas Committee selected one Honor Book; Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert written by Gary D. Schmidt and illustrated by David Diaz published by Clarion Books.

Honor Book
Martin de Porres tells the moving story of the first Black Catholic Saint of the Americas. The illegitimate son of a former slave and a Spanish conqueror, Martin grew up in the poorest barrio of 17th century Lima, Peru where ‘hunger lived in their home and illness was their companion.’ The Rose in the Desert tells how the child was taken in as a servant by Dominican Friars, where he became known for his miraculous ability to heal both animals and humans. The poor came to Martin to be healed, and soon Spanish royals began to request his services but ‘learned to wait for him to tend the poorest among the barrios first.’ In spite of his humble spirit and service to the community, the mulatto child was frowned upon by the friars and addressed as ‘son of a slave’ and ‘mongrel.’ Finally, some thirteen years after his arrival at the monastery, he was permitted to take his vows as a Dominican tertiary. Among the Dominican brothers, he performed miracles and heal the sick, until his death in 1639.

In San Martin, young readers learn about universal concepts such as charity, poverty, justice and community. Moments of tribulation, compassion and triumph are all present in this simple yet lyrical text. A full palette of emotion is expressed through mixed media illustrations which provide a unique blend of shapes and vibrant watercolors. This story of the patron saint of interracial harmony and social causes leaves the reader with a feeling of inspiration and hope for humanity. (Grades K-4)

Three commended titles were selected this year by the committee, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe written by Benjamin Alire Saenz published by Simon & Schuster, Drummer Boy of John John written by Mark Greenwood and illustrated by Frané Lessac published by Lee & Low Books and In Darkness by Nick Lake and published by Bloomsbury.

Commended Titles
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is the deeply moving account of two young men growing into adulthood in El Paso, Texas, in the late 1980s. Sentences are expertly distilled – spare in words, but rich in meticulous details and astute character development. Readers follow the two young men as they thoughtfully discover the complexities of the world around them as well as truths about themselves — indeed, the secrets of the universe. Woven throughout are details that expand the novel’s relevance: nuanced depictions of Mexican-American families and their heritage; musings about the purpose of life; and honest questions about sexuality and love. In telling the story of their coming of age, Sáenz offers homage to, “all the boys who’ve had to learn to play by different rules.” It is a novel that can complement discussions (in the classroom and beyond) around discrimination in response to culture and the LGBTQ community. At its core, the novel shows Saénz unearthing how to be true to oneself — something to which we can all relate. (Grades 9-12)

Drummer Boy of John John
This book’s story is inspired by that of Winston “Spree” Simon, the creator of Trinidad and Tobago’s national instrument, the steel drum. Drums and other percussive instruments take center stage in young Winston’s quest to compete to have the best band in his island’s Carnival parade. The celebration of sound drives the story, with onomatopoeia serving as an effective device to draw the reader into the fun feeling of Carnival. Young Winston hears percussive instruments all around him, and, discovering a wealth of sounds from all sorts of found objects, he eventually founds a “junkyard band,” which takes first prize. The illustrator’s use of vibrant tones and people in motion capture the energy of the occasion. Whimsical scenes in the junkyard and beyond add interest to the telling of this tale for young readers. (Grades K-3)

In Darkness
Trapped in crushing darkness beneath debris of the 2010 earthquake, Shorty recalls his violent, gang-controlled life in Haitian slums. While despairing of rescue, he is heartened and disturbed by thoughts of Toussaint l’Ouverture who led a slave revolt in the eighteenth century and died in darkness. Ultimately Shorty is prepared to reclaim his life. ”I was in darkness, but now I am in light.” By braiding the parallel lives of Shorty and Toussaint, Lake paints an alarming, thought-provoking portrait of Haitian history, both present and past. It gives young readers a heady mix of the social, religious, and political realities of the Americas’ poorest country. (Grades 9-12)

Members of the 2013 Américas Award Selection Committee are: Chair Hope Crandall, Washington Elementary Library, Woodburn, OR; Aaron Forbes, Morris Jeff Community School, New Orleans, LA; América Calderón, Teaching for Change, Washington, DC; Barbara D’Ambruoso, Lauralton Hall, Orange, CT, and Keira Philipp-Schnurer, University of New Mexico, NM.

CLASP’s mission is to promote all facets of Latin American studies throughout the world. Its broad range of activities include the encouragement of research activities, funding of professional workshops, advancement of citizen outreach activities, and development of teaching aids for the classroom.

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