I asked Amina Luqman-Dawson, Andrea Beatriz Arango, Christina Soontornvat, and Lisa Yee to answer two questions and finish two sentence starters.

Hello, Amina Luqman-Dawson! Congratulations on winning the 2023 Coretta Scott King Author Award and the 2023 Newbery Medal for Freewater.

I love hearing about the CALLS. What was running through your heart when the committees were clapping and cheering for you?

Amina Luqman-Dawson: As a debut author, I didn’t know that winners received a phone call. So, when I picked up my phone, I was elated to hear it was the Coretta Scott King Award Committee calling to share some good news. I began screaming and crying. I felt extraordinary pride, happiness and a sense of arrival and peace. FREEWATER was going to be okay. People would read it. I called my family and we had a celebratory Zoom call. So, you can imagine my utter surprise when I received a second call hours later from the Newbery committee. I dropped to the floor and cried. I felt completely overwhelmed. My first thought was, The whole world is going to know FREEWATER.

What do these awards mean to you?

Amina Luqman-Dawson: I feel truly honored and humbled by the tradition of all the wonderful award-winning authors who have come before me. Mildred Taylor was the last African American woman to win the Newbery Medal, in 1977, for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. That book was an inspiration as I wrote FREEWATER. She knew how to capture the voices of children. And the Coretta Scott King Award! I’ve spent a good deal of my life using that seal as a marker for great African American literature. So yes, I’m beyond honored, but I’m also just plain ole’ overjoyed!

Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Story is a place to lose oneself—to savor being in the shoes of someone else and to appreciate seeing the world through their eyes. Sometimes you find yourself in a story, which is self-affirming and powerful, while most times you simply have moments of understanding beyond your own experience.

Libraries are centers of childhood power. Unlike in school, where as a child, I was often told what to study and what to know, in a library the choice was entirely mine. I relished that sense of power.

Thank you, Amina! 

Borrow Freewater from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.


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