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Award Honors Young-Adult Books That Authentically Portray Rural Life

More than a dozen books highlighting diverse rural themes are winners of the Whippoorwill, a one-of-a-kind national award for books written for young adults. 

The winners of the 2021-2022 Whippoorwill Book Award are the following: 

This Poison Heart, Kalynn BayronClockwork Curandera, Volume 1: The Witch Owl Parliament, David Bowles and Raul the ThirdKing and the Dragonflies, Kacen CallenderRural Voices: Fifteen Authors Challenges Assumptions about Small Town America, Nora Shalaway CarpenterWinter White and Wicked, Shannon DittemoreThe Art of Saving the Word, Corinne DuyvisThe Reckless Kind, Carly HeathElatsoe, Darcie Little BadgerTell it True, Tim LocketteLike Other Girls, Lundin BrittaPumpkin, Julie MurphyDark and Shallow Lies, Ginny Myers SainIn the Wild Light, Jeff Zentner

The Whippoorwill is an annual award that honors the 10 most distinguished young adult books that portray rural places and people. Due to the delays caused by Covid-19, this year’s committee recognized 13 exemplary books published in 2020 and 2021. Previous awards were given in 2019 and 2020.

The award was founded in 2019 by Jenn Sanders, Dresser Endowed Professor of Rural Teacher Education at Oklahoma State University, and her doctoral student, Jill Bindewald.

RELATED STORY: The Power of Place: Educator Helps Literature Teachers Connect Students to Their Rural Roots

Sanders and Bindewald both have a passion for rural literature and life. They discovered book awards are often regionally restricted and not rural focused. They created their own national award to acknowledge outstanding work in the growing rural genre.

Eligibility for the award is simple. The setting must be rural and the book must be an original work. 

The committee’s criteria for distinction is more complex. 

According to The Whippoorwill website, awardees must value and authentically portray characters, places, cultures, and histories without overly romanticizing or denigrating rural life.

“Even within the U.S., there are so many different kinds of places and stories that can be considered rural,” Sanders said in an interview with the Daily Yonder. “We wanted to highlight books that show the complexity of rural people and rural places.”

This year’s awardees represent many different voices and cultures. 

“We have books telling rural Black stories, Indigenous stories, international stories, and LGTBQ stories,” said Devon Brenner, co-chair of the Whippoorwill committee. “I appreciate that diversity of perspectives, because stereotypically rural places don’t represent that.” 

Submissions for the award can come from publishers large and small, from any country, and from any author. Brenner sees the award program as an opportunity to support both rural authors and small publishers.

“We have submissions from Scholastic, we have Penguins, we have Random Little House,” Brenner said. “But we also have the opportunity to work with really small publishing houses, whose authors also tend to say more about rural places, and the opportunity to bring smaller stories some attention.”

Though The Whippoorwill is still in its infancy stage, Brenner and Sanders hope to see it grow to include children’s literature. Including picture books would broaden the age range of the students who can benefit from the award, Sanders said. 

As for the award’s name, The Whippoorwill website explains it best.

“The whippoorwill is a bird known for its distinct song that fills many remote spaces. The Whippoorwill Award takes on this bird’s name as a way to honor young adult literature that sings the authentic stories of rural people and places.”

The post Award Honors Young-Adult Books That Authentically Portray Rural Life appeared first on The Daily Yonder.

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