The Power of Story

Photo of Ryan Gattis with teens from Firebaugh High School. Source: ryangattis.com
Photo of Ryan Gattis with teens from Firebaugh High School. Source: ryangattis.com

The Short Version

  • Author wins award: Ryan Gattis, All Involved, 2016 ALEX Award.
  • Author graciously agrees to appear at award presentation during library convention.
  • Author delivers incredibly moving speech.
  • Audience member (aka: me) compelled to share speech and books with world!

The Slightly Longer Version

I am very lucky to serve on the ALEX Award Committee for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). The experience has been so rewarding, so much fun, and I'm exceedingly grateful to be a part of this group of librarians serving teens. If you don't know them, the ALEX Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to teens, ages 12 through 18. In addition to the Top Ten list, the committee releases an official list of nominated titles. The purpose of the list is to nurture teen readers as they transition to adulthood, i.e. give them fun things to read so they keep reading!

One of the winners of the 2016 Top Ten is Ryan Gattis's vivid story in 18 voices, All Involved. Set in the Lynwood neighborhood of Los Angeles during the chaos of the 1992 riots, the book is a powerful, uncompromising, beautiful portrayal of the struggle to survive and the audacity to live. As soon as Ryan found out he'd won the award, back in January, and received our request to attend the awards presentation at the Annual convention in the Summer, he was in. My fellow committee members and I were excited at the prospect; we didn't imagine how moving the day would turn out to be.

What we've discovered is that it's hard to convey that experience in conversation. Fortunately, a fellow committee member, Kara Hunter, has written about Ryan's appearance at the event and his speech. You can read the article at YALSA's the Hub (and I highly recommend it!). Ryan's story, his stunning book, and his experiences with the youth of Los Angeles is inspiring and hope-filled.

After you read the article, check out some of the books on the 2016 ALEX Award Top Ten list. Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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