Little Rock native Nate Powell wins National Book Award | Rock Candy

Little Rock native Nate Powell wins National Book Award

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TEAM 'MARCH': Co-authors Andrew Aydin, U.S. Rep. John Lewis and Nate Powell. - VIA @SEEMYBROTHERDANCE ON INSTAGRAM
  • Via @seemybrotherdance on Instagram
  • TEAM 'MARCH': Co-authors Andrew Aydin, U.S. Rep. John Lewis and Nate Powell.

Little Rock native Nate Powell is a National Book Award winner. "March: Book Three," the final part of U.S. Rep. John Lewis' civil rights memoir, won the award for young people's literature at a ceremony in New York last night. Andrew Aydin and Powell were co-authors with Lewis on the trilogy.

This marks the first time a graphic novel has ever won the National Book Award, and makes the "March" trilogy, already a bestseller that's landed on school reading lists across the country, one of the most decorated comic works ever.

Powell hasn't lived in Arkansas in years, but he remains connected to the state and its arts community. He was a member of Little Rock's Soophie Nun Squad, the party-punk band that gained an international following, and for 16 years, he ran Harlan Records and released all sorts of essential Little Rock albums.

Now a resident of Bloomington, Ind., he's accomplished quite a bit in recent years. From his bio:

Powell's work has received a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, two Eisner Awards, two Ignatz Awards, two Harvey Awards, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, four YALSA Great Graphic Novels For Teens selections, a Best American Comics selection, and has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Powell has discussed his work at the United Nations, as well as on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and CNN. His books have been placed on school curriculum in over 40 states, and his animated illustrations in the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Selma: The Bridge To The Ballot" documentary will reach roughly one million students in 50,000 schools across the nation.
Along the way, we also got him to do the cover art for an issue of the Arkansas Times.

"Our work was in the spirit of illuminating those participants whose contributions have been less celebrated, but as the trilogy progressed it clearly told a story of 2016 as much as it did of 1964, and I found myself increasingly focused on future readers," Powell told the National Book Award Foundation. "As my two daughters grow into the world, as their perspectives rapidly expand, March is a road map, providing a real sense of continuity and empathy for those who came before—and how best to move forward. In such a toxic time, I hope this continues to be a part of the antidote for which we're all hungry."
march-book-three-cover-100dpi_lg.jpg

Here's Lewis' reaction, per NPR:

"I remember in 1956 when I was 16 years old, going down to the public library, trying to get library cards, and we were told that the libraries were whites-only and not for coloreds," Lewis said.

But Lewis, whose work in the civil rights movement is chronicled in the March trilogy of graphic memoirs, said he would not relent.

"I had a wonderful teacher in elementary school who told me, 'Read my child, read!' And I tried to read everything," Lewis said.

"To come here and receive this award — it's too much."

Three of the major awards went to books that deal with race and racism: In addition to "March: Book Three," Colson Whitehead's "Underground Railroad" won the fiction prize and Ibram X. Kendi's "Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America" won the nonfiction prize.


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