Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc.

BCALA Literary Awards

Contact: Gladys Smiley Bell, 757-727-5185

or [email protected]

Press Release

For Immediate Release

March 1, 2024

BCALA Announces the 2024 Literary Awards Winners

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. (BCALA) announces the winners of the 2024 BCALA Literary Awards. The awards recognize excellence in adult fiction and nonfiction by African American authors published in 2023, including an award for Best Poetry and a citation for Outstanding Contribution to Publishing. The recipients will receive awards recognition during the 2024 National Conference of African American Librarians in New Orleans, LA, at the New Orleans Marriott, July 24 – 28.

This year acknowledges the winner of the 1st Novelist Award. Moonrise over New Jessup: a novel by Jamila Minnicks (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, an imprint of Workman Publishing).

Moonrise Over New Jessup delivers a new resident to an all-Black town. Alongside the protagonist, readers will fall in love with the Alabama setting, Alice Young’s place in it, and community organizer Raymond Campbell. Minnick’s narrator, while reliable to the reader, keeps everyone else at a distance to navigate the subterfuge required of activists – and their families – during the Civil Rights era. The compelling story and distinctive viewpoint of first novel award winner Moonrise Over New Jessup holds space on library shelves for Jamila Minnicks and her future work. She lives in Washington, DC.

The Fiction category winner is All the Sinners Bleed by S. A. Crosby (Flatiron Books).

Cosby has done it again with this fast-paced, distinctive, powerful crime fiction novel. All the Sinner’s Bleed tackles a school shooting in a small rural town in Virginia. The sheriff, Titus Crowne, is the county’s first black sheriff and takes us through a long, gruesome investigation that finds the shooter was one of many young people who was abused by one of the teachers at the school. Crowne has to contend with small-town culture while grappling with the town’s racial tensions. S. A Cosby is an award-winning writer from southeastern Virginia.

The Honor Books for Fiction are Temple Folk by Aaliyah Bilal (Simon & Schuster), The Reformatory: a novel by Tananarive Due (SAGA Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster), Promise: a novel by Rachel Eliza Griffiths (Random House), and Symphony of Secrets: a novel by Brenda Slocumb (Anchor Books, a division of Penguin Random House).

Temple Folk offers readers a vivid window into the joy and the intricacy of contemporary Islamic life in Black America, with short stories that compare and contrast the experiences of Black Muslims with love, nuance, satisfaction, and profound disappointment. Bilal’s collage of characters demonstrates versatility with theme and nonlinear storytelling as various protagonists navigate their communities of faith, relationships between siblings, and adult friendships. Readers will be quickly captivated by Temple Folk, where every turn of the page is a point of entry for empathy and reflection. Aaliyah Bilal was born and raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Set at the former notoriously known Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Florida, The Reformatory weaves a riveting, page-turning tale that follows the travails of 12-year-old Robert ‘Robbie’ Stephens, Jr., who is sent to the sadistic, segregated reform school and the journey of his older sister Gloria who advocates seeking justice for her brother from the school’s chamber of terrors. While navigating the horrors of racism and injustice for the living and the dead at Dozier, Robbie discovers that his special gift to see ghosts might save him. Tananarive Due teaches Black Horror and Afrofuturism at UCLA.

Promise is a heartbreaking and beautiful story that doesn’t hold anything back. What begins as a tender tale of young friendship between sisters and neighbors takes a winding road of truth and clear-eyed analysis of race relations that existed in America. Though set in 1957, there is little here that couldn’t still take place in the current US city or town in 2024. Griffiths cuts through all the niceness to reveal that the heart of white supremacy is the same whether in a small town in Maine or in a big city or community that we currently live in today. Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet, visual artist, and novelist.

Symphony of Secrets is a brilliantly written masterpiece of a book. Professor Bern Hendricks of the University of Virginia considered the foremost expert on Frederic Delaney – a renowned White classical composer- is summoned by the Delaney Foundation for a secret commission. Bern tries to untangle the musical notation system of a recently discovered opera by Delaney but notices doodles on the manuscript. Through his investigation, he discovers that Josephine Reed, a young Black composer, may have created many of Delaney’s successful works. Brendan Slocumb holds a degree in music education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The winner in the Nonfiction category is Black AF History: the un-whitewashed Story of America by Michael Harriot (DEYST., an imprint of William Morrow/Harper Collins).

Black AF History is written by columnist and political commentator Michael Harriot, who delivers a scathing, stingingly intelligent, and unabashedly humorous deconstruction of American history as he sets the record straight for a more accurate version of history. Unapologetic in his delivery, Harriot delivers the goods supported by meticulous research, primary resources, and an arsenal of contributions from notable and acclaimed Black historians, scholars, and journalists. Here, Black people are removed from the white gaze and centered appropriately in a history that acknowledges their contributions and achievements. Harriot is a columnist at theGrio.com, where he covers the intersection of race, politics, and culture.

The Honor Books for the Nonfiction category are The New Brownies’ Book: A Love Letter to Black Families, edited by Dr. Karida L. Brown and Charly Palmer (Chronicle Books), Driving the Green Book: A Road Trip Through the Living History of Black resistance by Alvin Hall (HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins), White Burgers Black Cash: fast food from Black exclusion to exploitation by Naa Oyo A. Kwate (University of Minnesota Press), and The Kneeling Man: my father’s life as a Black spy who witnessed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. by Leta McCollough Seletzky (Counterpoint).

The writer and artist team of Brown and Palmer have brought new life to an original periodical publication of Du Bois’ from the twenties. The Brownies’ Book: A Monthly Magazine for Children of the Sun was originally published to “make colored children realize that “colored” is a normal beautiful thing.” The New Brownies Book includes many contemporary artists and writers, incorporating Fisk University students, and includes their poems, photographs, essays, drawings, and stories that celebrate the experiences of today’s African American families, with emphasis on our children. All aspects of life, from joy to desperation, are depicted in this beautifully crafted book that is meant to be shared by all. Dr. Karida L. Brown is a sociologist, professor, oral historian, and public intellectual whose research centers on the ontologies of systemic racism. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, fine artist and illustrator Charly Palmer.

Alvin Hall has recreated a journey through America’s haunted racial past with the legendary Green Book as your guide. This guide was used as a road map to avoid places where dangers lurked in the Jim Crow era. It was noted through the years of 1936 -1976, and some will still say that today, Black travelers need this guide to navigate through the North and South to find places to eat, sleep, and eat while traveling just to stay safe.

Driving the Green Book is a vital work of national history as well as a hopeful chronicle of Black resilience and resistance. Hall is an award-winning television and radio broadcaster, author, and financial educator.

In her book, White Burgers, Black Cash, Naa Oyo A. Kwate dissects the evolution and history of fast food in the Black community, including franchise opportunities, the availability to dine, and the changing of landscapes or advertising and how it affects Black people. She investigates and shows us just how exploitative the fast food industry has been on the black community. From its first emergence around 1912, fast food has been specifically geared toward the white population until now, when things have shifted to Black exploitation. Kwate is an Associate Professor of Africana studies and human ecology at Rutgers University.

The Kneeling Man is a memoir and exploration of the recent past attempting to understand the past of Leta McCollough’s father, Marrell (Mac) McCollough. He was immortalized as one of the figures huddled around the famous balcony photo of Dr. King’s assassination at the Lorraine Motel. When she pulls back the layers of her father, she realizes that he was not only a member of the Black Power movement, he was also an undercover agent for the Memphis Police Department who later went on to work for the CIA and, for some, he was known as a spy for the white power structure. Seletzky grew up in Memphis, TN, and now lives in California.

The winner of BCALA’s Best Poetry Award is Above Ground: poems by Clint Smith (Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group)

Above Ground is Clint Smith’s contribution to what it means to be a father and how it can change one’s perception of the world. These poems reminisce about what it is like to view and or discover the world through the eyes of your children. There are vivid and thoughtful poems that describe what it is like to “wait on a heartbeat,” “Ode to the infant Hiccup,” “Zoom school with a toddler,” and “first birthday.” Some poems are lyrical; some are narrative, but they take the reader on a trip through the early childhood years through the changing world in which they grow up. Smith is a staff writer at The Atlantic.

The Honor Books for Best Poetry is Why Fathers Cry at Night: A Memoir in Love Poems, letters, recipes, and Remembrances by Kwame Alexander (Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group), I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times: poems by Taylor Byas (Soft Skull), and We Eat to Remember: soul food poetry by FABU (The Ironer’s Press).

Why Fathers Cry at Night is a powerful, non-traditionally styled memoir written by award-winning and bestselling author Kwame Alexander. He uses poetry, letters, recipes, and unambiguous vulnerability to provide an intimate look into his life and the loved ones he shares his life with. He is a man dealing with the dissolution of a marriage, estrangement from his adult children, and the loss of his dear mother. In this memoir, he tries to piece it all together while gaining a greater understanding of the complex, complicated, splendored things called love. Alexander is an American writer of poetry and children’s literature, for which he is best known.

In her debut work, I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times, Taylor Byas centers this collection of poems around her home in the state of Chicago and her experiences within it. In 7 connected sections with colorful imagery, she gives the readers a look into her self-actualization by bringing into effect what life on the Southside of Chicago encompasses. With subjects such as systemic racism, sexual assault, addiction, and sisterhood, this work proves Byas has a knack for storytelling and is a legend in the making. Taylor Byas is from the Southside of Chicago and is currently living in Ohio.

We Eat to Remember by Fabu Phillis Carter is a book of poems showcasing the beauty of soul food and the history behind it. It is a book that shows us how beautiful food can be and also the beauty of the way we eat it. From watermelon to grits to the history behind the black iron skillet, Carter gives us narratives of soul food and the way it is prepared and devoured from the homeland of Africa, through slavery, to the present day. Fabu Carter is a poet, columnist, storyteller, and educator who writes to encourage, inspire, and remind. She is from Madison, Wisconsin.

The BCALA Literary Awards Committee presents the Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation to The Talk by Darrin Bell (Henry Holt and Company, a trademark of Macmillan Publishing Group) and The Art of Ruth E Carter: costuming Black History and the afrofuture, from Do the right thing to Black Panther (Chronicle Books).

A fundamental work for library collections, The Talk will seed, facilitate, and empower critical intergenerational conversations. Darrin Bell’s exceptional use of visual and sequential artwork reflects his distinct impact on American political discourse, with well-known political cartoons from his career as a cartoonist contextualized in a graphic memoir. Providing readers in the Black diaspora and beyond with a personal and unique frame for a universal conversation, The Talk is an outstanding contribution to the literary canon. Bell is a contributing cartoonist for the New Yorker. He lives with his wife and four children in California.

The only African American woman to win costuming design Oscars, Ruth E. Carter shares her evolving work techniques in costumes that emerge in more than forty movies from Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Amistad, Selma, Coming 2 America, The Butler to Black Panther. The Art of Ruth E. Carter is not only a coffee table book but the definitive visually attractive book on Black costumes with visuals, sketches, anecdotes, film, and stills. Carter’s work can also serve as an inspiration for anyone seeking or pursuing a career in costume design. Ruth Carter, an alumna of Hampton University, lives in Los Angeles.

Members of the BCALA Literary Awards Jury are Gladys Bell (Chair), VA; Tiffany A. Duck, VA; Dana Evans, VA; Ritchie A. Momon, MO; John Page, D.C.; Gerald Moore, SC; and Deimosa Webber-Bey, NY.