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

January 2023

BCALA Announces the 2023 Literary Awards Winners

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. (BCALA) announces the winners of the 2023 BCALA Literary Awards. The awards recognize excellence in adult fiction and nonfiction by African American authors published in 2022, including an award for Best Poetry and a citation for Outstanding Contribution to Publishing. The recipients will receive awards during the 2023 American Library Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL.

The winner of the 1st Novelist Award is Black Cake: a Novel by Charmaine Wilkerson (Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House).

Eleanor Bennett has died, and she has left an eight-hour recording to be heard by her two grown children, in the presence of each other. Her son Byron has a successful career while Benny, her daughter, dropped out of college long ago and does not have a clear picture of what she wants to do with her life. In Eleanor’s own words she is going to tell them everything that they need to know about her past to help them reclaim their once close relationship, and the connection to her traditional Caribbean Black Cake, as they understand Eleanor’s true history. Charmaine Wilkerson is a Caribbean-American journalist, writer, and author.

The Fiction category winner is Take My Hand: a Novel by Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House).

Take My Hand illustrates the truth of young Black women and girls victimized by medical misinformation and experimentation. Sisters Erica and India are prescribed birth control, leading to a series of escalating and irreversible interventions into their young lives. Delivered from the present-day perspective of their childhood nurse, Civil Townsend quests to finish what she started in an Alabama family planning clinic in 1973. Perkins-Valdez’s intricately crafted tale of tragedy and redemption weaves back and forth in time and is inspired by true events. Dolen Perkins-Valdez lives Washington, DC, with her family.

The Honor books for Fiction are Perish: a Novel by Latoya Watkins (Tiny Reparations Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House); Yonder: a Novel by Jabari Asim (Simon and Schuster); and Stories From Tenants Downstairs by Sidik Fofana (Scribner, an imprint Simon and Schuster).

LaToya Watkins cleverly writes an intriguing debut that spans almost five decades. It follows four members of the Turner family—Julie B., Helen Jean, Jan, and Lydia. The setting is a Texas town called Jerusalem. A family’s “goodbye” reunion for their mother and grandmother brings to light some long kept secrets and forces each family member to deal with important questions about blame and forgiveness. This riveting book chronicles and focuses on the matriarch Helen Jean dark past that comes to light. LaToya Watkins lives and teaches in a suburb of Dallas.

Yonder, a gut-wrenching, fast-paced novel about slavery, love, and what an enslaved person is willing to sacrifice for freedom. The story follows several characters from the same plantation on their journey through the Underground Railroad to “yonder.” This novel is filled with African spirituality and its power to sustain those who suffered the most. The magical realism seeped throughout helps to create such power in the depth of the story. Yonder is a work that breaks your heart and builds it back up again. Jabari Asim directs the MFA program in creative writing at Emerson College.

In eight interconnected stories, Sidik Fofana’s Stories from the Tenants Downstairs gives the reader a look into the pressures families face from day to day. The tight-knit cast of Banneker Terrace shows how to survive in Harlem as life and the lack of money get in the way. From single motherhood to struggles with money and crime, these stories show a side Sidik Fofana wants the world to see in regard of how communities work in the age of low- income housing and gentrification looming overhead. Sidik Fofana received his MFA from NYU and is a public school teacher in Brooklyn.

The winner in the Nonfiction category is … Read More

Official Press Release

Letter to Publishers and Authors:

The Literary Awards Committee of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. (BCALA) is now accepting submissions for the annual BCALA Literary Awards. The Committee will present four prizes of $1,000.00 each for adult books written by African American citizen authors: a First Novelist Award, a Fiction Award, a Nonfiction Award, and a Poetry Award. The First Novelist Award is given to recognize outstanding writing and storytelling by a debut author. Honor Book citations are also given in fiction and nonfiction without any accompanying monetary remuneration. Additionally, an Outstanding Contribution to Publishing citation is provided to an author and/or publishing company for unique books that offer a positive depiction of African Americans.

First presented at the Second National Conference of African American Librarians in 1994, the BCALA Literary Awards acknowledge outstanding works of fiction and nonfiction for adult audiences by African American authors. Recipients of these awards offer outstanding depictions of the cultural, historical or sociopolitical aspects of the Black Diaspora and embody the highest quality of writing style and research methodology, if applicable.

Books from small, large and specialty publishers are welcome for review consideration. Titles forwarded for review must be published in 2023. Sets or multi-volume works are eligible. New editions of previously published works are eligible only if more than 30% of the total content is new or revised material. Inspirational, self-help, and graphic novels are ineligible. Only finished, published books should be submitted; galleys (bound or unbound) and chapbooks are NOT eligible.

Please send one copy of each title submitted to each member of the Literary Awards Committee. A Committee roster with their addresses can be found at

Supply all available information regarding the submission, including promotional material, author biography and available news articles and reviews via email or with published book.

BCALA Literary Awards Criteria

BCALA presents four (4) $1,000.00 awards: one for adult fiction, one for nonfiction, one for a first novelist and one for poetry. These awards acknowledge outstanding achievement in the presentation of the cultural, historical and sociopolitical aspects of the Black Diaspora.

The Fiction Award recognizes depictions of sensitive and authentic personal experience either within the framework of contemporary literary standards and themes or which explore innovative literary formats.

The Nonfiction Award honors … Read More

Literary Award Seals Price List

Packs of 24: $15.00
WINNERS Rolls of 100: $70.00
HONORS Rolls of 50: $35.00