The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators proudly announces Anuradha D. Rajurkar and Lakita Wilson as the winners of the 2017 On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award.
Rajurkar wins for American Betiya, a complex YA novel about a teenage artist grappling with forbidden romance, personal boundaries, and the appropriation of her Indian heritage. Describing the personal connection to her work, Rajurkar said, “Like the protagonist in my novel, I journeyed through deep conflict between my Indian roots and American girl dreams. Subtly exploring class, sexuality, and race in the context of art, minority culture, and first love, my work holds a mirror to the universal struggle—and triumph—of teenage girls seeking identity in a modern, diverse America.”
Lakita Wilson is the author of Books Like Me, the first book in a planned middle grade series called The SweetPeas, about a group of friends, all young women of color, who speak out for social justice. In Books Like Me, Haley challenges a racist book in the school curriculum and protests for more diverse books in the classroom. Wilson explained, “My main character, Haley, will be speaking for all girls of color who do not see themselves in required reading in school. The sparse literature for readers of color in our real-life educational system will certainly assist readers’ understanding of Haley’s frustration over not seeing girls like her featured in classroom read alouds.” Wilson has also created a real-life blog to support diverse literature, where girls between the ages of five and twelve can review and share their favorite books.
The Emerging Voices award is part of the SCBWI’s ongoing effort to foster diverse and underrepresented voices in children’s publishing. According to SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver, “Our community is actively working toward the goal of every child having the opportunity to see themselves reflected in the pages of a book. It is time to acknowledge underrepresented authors and illustrators and help them bring their talents and voices to the forefront.”
The winning manuscripts will be made available to select agents and editors via a secure website.
Rajurkar and Wilson will also receive a paid trip to the 2018 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles to meet editors, agents, and other industry professionals.
The On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award is made possible through the generosity of Sue and Martin Schmitt of the 455 Foundation. Sue wrote: “Diverse writers need to know that not only do their voices and stories matter— but are necessary! We live in a world where we must strive to understand other points of view and each other for the betterment of humankind.”
Anuradha D. Rajurkar: YA novel American Betiya
Lakita Wilson: Middle grade novel Books Like Me (Book 1 of The SweetPeas)