Beauty. Diversity. Imagination. The winners of Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Editor’s Choice Awards for Fiction, Nonfiction, and Publisher of the Year each emphasize one of these three qualities—and they’re particularly representative of what I like to call the “indie spirit.” It’s not that the Big 5 publishers are not capable of giving us shades of all three, but we’ve found that indie publishers are generally more free to experiment, to take chances, to assume a greater intelligence and appreciation of readers, to give these qualities more of an edge.
First, a quick update for those who missed us last week. We recently returned from the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in San Francisco, where we presented our 2014 INDIEFAB awards. Take a look at our announcement and list of winners.
Edisto River: Black Water Crown Jewel, by Larry Price, Rosie Price, and Susan Kammeraad-Campbell (Joggling Board Press) won our Editor’s Choice Award for Nonfiction. Managing Editor Matt Sutherland, in his presentation last week, counted seven ways in which he loved this book. It’s a beautiful coffee-table book, yes, but it’s one with intelligence, purpose, and an environmental message. Matt writes:
From its headwaters at the Midlands of South Carolina, the Edisto River meanders 305 unobstructed miles along low sandy banks before gently expiring into the Atlantic Ocean. Formally known as black water, the river’s slow moving current doesn’t sweep away its earthy riverbed, and the waters are stained the color of strong tea by the tannins of decaying plant matter. Such laziness has also kept the Edisto free of dams and other human interferences.
Read the rest of Matt’s review of Edisto River.
There’s a popular hashtag on social media these days: #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Viral social-media sentiments are fine, as far as they go, but at some point, somebody has to transfer sentiment into action. In a recent Foreword This Week newsletter, I highlighted one publisher who is doing something controversial about gender imbalance in publishing. Our Publisher of the Year, Lee & Low Books, is also going beyond the hashtag and taking concrete steps to ensure our children grow up learning to appreciate and accept cultures beyond their own. In the words of our publisher, Victoria Sutherland:
With the topical word “diversity“ in mind, we can all admit there are too few books with characters of color or by writers of color. This publisher promotes diversity and encourages understanding by not only publishing beautiful children’s picture books but advancing social activism and providing resources on diversity to educators. Knowing that books can instill important first impressions for so many children, books showcasing diversity heal the world during difficult times.
Read Victoria’s presentation of the Publisher of the Year Award.
Sarah Stark began her career as a foreign policy expert very much rooted in political reality. But it wasn’t until she started writing fiction that she began to make sense of everything she learned in international relations. And not just any kind of fiction: magic realism influenced by the master of the genre, Gabriel García Márquez. Stark explained how she uses magic rooted in reality when we spoke in San Francisco. We were so impressed with her ability to combine the two that we named her book, Out There, our Editor’s Choice Award for Fiction. Foreword Reviews Associate Editor Allyce Amidon presented the award, saying:
The prose is lyrical, the detail sumptuous, the story is humorous and heartbreaking, gorgeous and flirting with the line between magic and realism. It’s a story that explores the innate power of literature: to connect, to heal, to transform.
Read Allyce’s presentation of the Editor’s Choice Award for Fiction.
It was appropriate that we presented the INDIEFABs at a librarian’s conference because they are on the front lines where literature meets the public. And, by necessity, it is often in the library where the world of books can also meet with the hard realities of life—whether dealing with political leaders who lack understanding about the vital service performed by libraries, or with patrons who are in dire need of social services. I spoke to many librarians who told me some interesting, frightening, inspiring tales. Stay with Foreword Reviews in the coming weeks as I tell their stories.
Howard Lovy is executive editor at Foreword Reviews. You can follow him on Twitter @Howard_Lovy