'Dig' Wins the Printz, Much to Author A.S. King's Surprise

A.S. King never thought this "uncomfortable" book could find a consensus in committee. The award "means the world," she says.

By the time Dig by A.S. King was announced as the 2020 Printz Award winner at the Youth Media Awards on Monday morning, King had known for nearly a day. But the next afternoon, she still struggled to describe how she felt.

“It’s really hard to gauge the emotions,” said the author. “It’s huge. Look, I’ve been writing for 26 years. I’ve been trying to write for the world for 26 years. This book, I’m really proud of it. I’ve always been really proud of it. It’s everything I wanted to say, even though it’s uncomfortable.”

King, whose Please Ignore Vera Dietz was named a Printz Honor title in 2011, said that as she searched for a place to sit down in her office (a box of books to mail sat on the chair) she asked the committee member on the phone to clarify: King had actually won? It was gold and not silver this time? 

“I had zero expectations, especially with this book,” she said. “I thought this book was too uncomfortable, too honest, and too real for any committee to agree on.”

She was wrong, and it completely threw off Monday's schedule. Just as Newbery winner Jerry Craft had planned to use the day getting work done on his next book, King was ready to write.

“It was supposed to be the first day I really started kicking butt on the book that’s due soon,” she said.

But even as she felt the pull to still get to work, King could only laugh and give up on the possibility of being productive. At least on Monday.

Read: 'New Kid' Makes History as First Graphic Novel To Win Newbery; Caldecott Goes To 'The Undefeated'

“Tomorrow I’m going to dive in,” she said, adding the little plot tease that she can’t leave the characters in their current precarious situation.

For the near future, though, she will be talking about Dig. While the Printz might not carry the sales power of the Newbery and Caldecott, it should still bring more attention and readers to the book, and that is important to King.

“The more readers this reaches, the better,” she said.

The YA novel weaves a multigenerational story. “Generations affect each other,” she said. 

King hopes more adults will pick up Dig. King has heard from some who have read it. They write to ask, “How did you know about my family?” she says. Email from teenagers often says the same thing.

“It’s kind of cool seeing a 70-year-old and 17-year-old ask the same question,” said King. “My family was actually very different [from the characters in the book], but I think it definitely speaks to a lot of people.…Here in America, we really need to start to look at the reality of the trauma the country was built on.”

Dig has a story and message she had wanted to write for years but hadn’t found the right way. Once she did, she says she didn’t hold back.

“How do I feel about this book?” she said. “I love this book."

And the Printz?

“It’s just very unreal,” said King. “This means the world.”

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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