“The Coretta Scott King Award is special because it does not only honor books for their literary merits. Of equal importance are the moral dimensions of a work. I learned what it is to be a moral writer from the work of Edward Lewis Wallant, a young Jewish writer who died much too early. He is best remembered for his novel The Pawnbroker. I read all of his novels while I was still a struggling, unpublished writer, and what amazed me about his work was that he never took sides against his characters, even ones whose actions were despicable. The other quality I took from his work was that, more often than people are given credit for, humans triumph over adversity, be it crushing poverty, illnesses teetering over the abyss of death, physical or psychological limitations. There is a transcendent dimension to the human experience, and it was this belief in a transcendent humanity that characterized the lives and works of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King. It is this belief in a transcendent humanity which the Coretta Scott King awards seek to draw attention in the books these awards honor. I accept this award on behalf of those whose condition may have been slavery but whose lives, more often than not, transcended their condition. Many of them entrusted their spirits and their stories to me to bring to you. We thank you.”
From the 2006 Coretta Scott King Author Award Speech by Julius Lester for Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue.
Post by Maegen Rose
Maegen Rose works as a school librarian at the Collegiate School in New York City, an independent school for boys. She works with students, staff, and families to provide and promote diverse literature.