Andrew Carnegie Medals | ALA Annual 2016

On Saturday, June 25, at the American Library Association (ALA) Conference in Orlando, the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were given to two winners originally announced at the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) Book & Media Awards Ceremony & Reception at ALA Midwinter. Viet Thanh Nguyen won the fiction medal for his debut novel, The Sympathizer (Grove), a visceral account of a South Vietnamese double agent posted to America after Saigon’s fall, and Sally Mann won the nonfiction medal for her formally ambitious Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs (Little, Brown).
ALAcarnegieAwards3On Saturday, June 25, at the American Library Association (ALA) Conference in Orlando, the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were given to two winners originally announced at the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) Book & Media Awards Ceremony & Reception at ALA Midwinter. Viet Thanh Nguyen won the fiction medal for his debut novel, The Sympathizer (Grove), a visceral account of a South Vietnamese double agent posted to America after Saigon’s fall, and Sally Mann won the nonfiction medal for her formally ambitious Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs (Little, Brown). Caption going here about these photos; showing Feldman on the top left, Donna Seaman from Booklist, and then Billy Collins, the keynoter, shown here holding up a book (his?) that I believe he read from. Photos by Johhny Coooker Introducing the fifth annual gala ceremony for the awards, which are sponsored jointly by RUSA and Booklist and made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, ALA President Sari Feldman praised both sponsors and publishers for helping to promote the award, which last year garnered more than 451,000 web pickups in addition to other media coverage. Booklist adult books editor Donna Seaman, who served on this year’s Carnegie Medal committee and will chair next year’s committee, added that “the reading public, too, has embraced the awards.” Seaman argued that the new way of announcing winners in January, when book awards buzz is at its height, has already helped raise the award’s profile. After a lighthearted keynote speech by former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins, who pointed out that his genre is not acknowledged by the Carnegies, Sally Mann’s Little, Brown editor, Michael Sand, accepted the medal on her behalf. (Sand, who first worked with the sometimes controversial photographer at Aperture in the early 1990s, is currently VP and Publisher, Adult Trade, Abrams.) Mann herself was unable to attend owing to the tragic death of her son Emmett on June 5, but Sand offered a detailed account of their collaboration on Hold Still, which got its start when Mann delivered the 2011 Massey Lectures at Harvard. The result, he said, is not just “beautifully written [but] painstakingly revised.” Photos here showing (top) editor Michael Field accepting for Sally Mann, and (bottom) Nyugen speaking after receiving his award. Photos by Johnny Cooker Though Mann was not present, she did send a letter proclaiming that “it pains me not to be there with my library story. I wanted to spread my big Appalachian love to all of you.” Her library story concerns her mother, a transplanted Northerner, who fought hard to build a library for the county seat. Noted Mann, “I have a belief that putting a book out in the world matters, the same belief my mother had with the library.” Nguyen, too, had a story about libraries, “my true home,” from the branch library he and his family first encountered in Pennsylvania as Vietnamese refugees to the San Jose Public Library he visited frequently when his parents moved to California. Browsing books there from children’s literature to sf to adult war stories, then moving on to his library in college, he soon discovered that “there were few books about people like me on the shelves, so I set out to be a writer. The desire to be included came from being excluded.” It took Nguyen 22 years to make the journey to published author, with spectacular results; The Sympathizer has won multiple awards, including the Pulitzer. One decision the author consciously made in his writing was “to deal with the truth of racism, exclusion, and imperialism in such a way that neither the writer nor the reader would be spared.” He ended his address by explaining that while his library “also exists in my mind, where inhumanity and humanity exist,” he still cherishes trips to the library as a return home. And he thanked librarians for their labors in refusing to spare their readers.

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