Wednesday, March 21, 2018

American Indian Library Association Rescinds its 2008 Young Adult Literature Award from Sherman Alexie

Yesterday, Naomi Bishop, the President of the American Indian Library Association, wrote to AILA's membership to let us know that the Executive Board and the Youth Literature Committee decided to rescind the Youth Literature Award it gave to Sherman Alexie in 2008 for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. 

This is a significant decision. AILA is a Native organization that is stepping forward to hold Alexie accountable for his actions.

Earlier today, School Library Journal published AILA's letter, and characterized the decision as "shocking." Characterizing it that way shifts the focus from Alexie's actions to the actions of an organization who said, publicly, that his behaviors are not acceptable. It is, of course, his behaviors that are shocking.

With permission, I am sharing AILA's letter here:

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 HeartsHelpline
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 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. 
AILA Youth Lit Committee 
AILA Executive Board


Update: as anticipated, comments at the School Library Journal article (and elsewhere) are about "due process" and that these are "allegations" that are unproven. When NPR did its article on Alexie, it was very careful to substantiate the information provided to them.  For further reading on Alexie, you can start with my Open Letter on February 25, 2018. It includes a TIMELINE with links to articles about the #MeToo movement, specific to Alexie and Native people. AILA's letter will be added to the TIMELINE.

1 comment:

Beverly Slapin said...


I applaud the American Indian Library Association for their courageous action. Above all, AILA stands for the children first, and I appreciate the important work that they do. And thank you so much for continuing the vital work that you continue to do.