Newbery Honor Author Alicia D. Williams

Click here to watch the 2020 ALA Youth Media Awards press conference.

I asked Jerry Craft, Kwame Alexander, Christian McKay Heidicker, Jasmine Warga, and Alicia D. Williams to answer two questions and finish two sentence starters. 

Hello, Alicia D. Williams! I love hearing about THE CALL! What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Newbery committee was clapping and cheering for you? 

Alicia D. Williams: I was getting ready for the Youth Media Awards at ALA in Philadelphia. And at the time, I was in the hotel bathroom putting on make-up. I was debating to wear my contacts or glasses. John, I look much younger without them, so you can understand my predicament. Contacts won because I’d be able to see as I put on my eyeshadow. Then the phone rang. 

That had better not be a scam call at 6:29 AM. But it was coming from Philadelphia. Hmm…okay. 

I answered the phone and it was not a scammer. It was the Newberry Committee!!! I don’t even remember the first words besides “Can I speak to Alicia?” because my heart started racing, drumming pounded in my ears—I recall saying, “Yes . . . yes . . . oh my God . . . are you serious?” Well, something like that because by then I was screaming. And I tried not to scream. I really did. But then there was more screaming—the whole committee was on the phone! And in my mind, they were popping champagne bottles and throwing confetti like it was New Year’s Eve. We all screamed together, celebrating this announcement. 

My hands shook so badly, I couldn’t put a single contact lens in. So, glasses it was. At that point, I didn’t care. The Newbery Committee called me—and we screamed together like old friends, one big happy family!

What does a Newbery Honor for Genesis Begins Again mean to you?

Alicia: What can I say besides--everything?! It’s the validation that my hard work has paid off. That the reader net has been cast wider and young people will learn about a girl who discovers self-acceptance, self-love, and hope. That the conversation of colorism will go deeper and hopefully, one day little brown children will not be ashamed to choose a crayon that matches their skin tone. That I’m what I tell my readers: brave, worthy, and good enough. That I’m joining a legacy that esteemed authors Renee Watson, Jacqueline Woodson, Rita-Garcia Williams, Virginia Hamilton, Mildred Taylor, and Patricia McKissack have been awarded. Still, I have a sneaky suspicion that I have yet to learn fully what this award truly means. 

Please finish these sentence starters:

Story is life. Every word, every paragraph, and every turn of the page gives us new meaning to life. 

School libraries are a safe haven. It’s where people—whole, wounded, curious, excitable, young, old—all people—can go to escape to a fantasy land or outer space, find themselves or their kindred spirits, understand others and gain empathy, or even find a quiet corner to sit, breathe, and be.

Borrow Genesis Begins Again from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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