April 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Greetings! and Farewell | Consider the Source


Marc 2Dear Readers, I wrote this column as I prepared to leave for the American Library Association Annual (ALA) conference in Orlando, FL. Along with Annette Goldsmith and Doris Gebel, I took part in an “Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange,” on the subject of “Using Global Literature in Translation To Reimagine Diversity in Libraries,” i.e., international books and translated books as a crucial—and neglected—form of diversity. Importantly, Rachel Hildebrandt was also on the panel. Rachel is a literary translator (her expertise is in German) who has spearheaded an effort to link translators and librarians and every type of library, from youth to academic. The event was an offshoot of the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI). Annette and Doris also addressed the YALSA board about creating a track within the Michael L. Printz Award for translated books.

All of this feels like both a culmination and a wonderful next challenge to me. Back in the 1990s, I worked with Michael Cart to create the award that became the Printz, an award that explicitly states in its rules that translated books—and books by authors who are neither American nor U.S. residents are eligible. (This is in contrast to, say, the Newbery and Caldecott Awards.) We wanted to open the young adult prize to every kind of writing (nonfiction, poetry, anthologies, graphic novels) and all authors. A few Printz winners and honors have been written by authors from countries outside the United States, including Geraldine McCaughrean, David Almond, Melina Marchetta, and Aidan Chambers. But this is luck of the draw—what gets published each year, and what the committee happens to select. If the Printz featured translation as a subset award, it would systematically draw attention to the rich body of teen literature penned overseas.

Flying to ALA to articulate the value of international children’s and young adult books reminds me of traveling to other conferences and meetings to make the case for a YA award, to promote YA graphic novels, to advocate for nonfiction, to celebrate visiting teen reading groups, and to accept the first Robert F. Sibert Medal. Literature for young people keeps expanding and diversifying, and as it does, it challenges us to think in new ways and to understand, appreciate, and honor more varieties of books—and readers.

I love being on the edge of change, a scout for what is coming, and for a cause whose time has arrived, and I’ve tried to use this column as a form of translation. That is, as a historian, an author, and a professor, sharing the books, authors, experiences, and ideas that have excited me. Whether that was thinking about how to frame discussions of this year’s election cycle in library displays or passing along some of the enticing presentation tools I’ve learned about from my students.

Now, though, it is time to consider new ways to share. I’ve mentioned the excellent high school science teacher John Mead in this column. Together we are exploring the idea of developing podcasts to explain science breakthroughs and events as they unfold, so that educators, students, and parents can make sense of discoveries they are reading about. Marina Budhos and I are in the very last stages of our second book together, Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and the Invention of Photojournalism, which will be published by Henry Holt in 2017. (We are very excited about its beautiful design.)

At the same time, Marina and I have been digging through the many layers of art, letters, and books that my parents, artistic collaborators, left behind. If you are an archivist with an interest in 20th-century art (from Russian constructivism to the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College) and live in the New York area, let me know—we’re overwhelmed. And speaking of collaboration, Susan Campbell Bartoletti and I will be partnering to develop and edit a thematic nonfiction anthology. And then there’s a solo book I must finish on the history of New York City in four streets, a square, and a Golden Door. I’ll leave you to guess which streets and square.

Thank you, School Library Journal, for giving me this platform to share experiences and discoveries. Thank you, Daryl Grabarek, for being an attuned and insightful editor. Thank you, everyone, for your comments and feedback. I may come back here for some other more limited projects, but for now, greetings and farewell. I have greatly enjoyed your company.

To access Marc Aronson’s earlier columns for School Library Journal, visit Consider the Source under the SLJ Blogs & Opinion webpage.

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Marc Aronson About Marc Aronson

Marc Aronson is a Rutgers University lecturer in the School of Communication and Information and the author of many notable nonfiction titles for children and young adults including, The Skull in the Rock, winner of the 2013 Subaru Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His book The Griffin and the Scientist (with Adrienne Mayor) will be published in April 2014. He was the first recipient of the Robert F. Sibert medal from the American Library Association for excellence in nonfiction writing for youth.

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