The NAIBA Carla Cohen Free Speech Award

NAIBA is proud to announce the book chosen is:

Amy Sarig King

Attack of the Black Rectangles (Scholastic) by Amy Sarig King has won the NAIBA Carla Cohen Free Speech Award.

Upon getting the news, King said, “I'm so humbled and honored -- to be connected in any way with Carla Cohen and to receive this important award. This is such a big deal for me, I sat last night and cried a little. Intellectual freedom is vitally important in any functioning democracy and this award will help me continue to teach young people about their rights, their choices, and their futures.”

When King was on a panel at New Voices New Rooms in 2022, she talked about meeting with high school students who had no idea that books are banned, even those of their favorite authors. As she related then, her fan mail from teens reveals a lot. “It reveals that parents who want to ban books also don’t support mental health services and are quieting their own children and their struggles.”

“This is not the time to ban books for children. Books are where they can see themselves, see everyone in their school. When they feel seen it is an unbelievable thing.”

Amy Sarig King will be honored at a special dinner in her hometown of Lititz, Pennsylvania on Sunday, October 1.  She will be joined by her friend and editor, David Levithan of Scholastic.  All booksellers are invited to join us. More information will be available in August.

Previous Winners of the NAIBA Carla Cohen Free Speech Award:

2022 How to Find What You're Not Looking For by Veera Hiranandani

2020 and 2021: The award was on hiatus due to Covid

2019 Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

2018: Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Hachette)

2017: I Dissent by Debbie Levy (S&S Books for Young Readers)

2016: George by Alex Gino

2015: A Case for Loving by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls

2013: Judy Blume for her body of work

2012: Americas by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill (Macmillan)

2011: Odetta by Stephen Alcorn (Scholastic)

2010: The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan and illustrated by Peter Sís (Scholastic)

The idea for this award came from a desire to not only honor an amazing bookseller and past president of NAIBA, but to honor Carla as would be most fitting.

The NCCFSA will be awarded to a children's book, as awareness of constitutional rights needs to begin at the beginning of true consciousness. Educating children about their rights by putting the books into their hands that will allow them to question, imagine, and dream is essential to the survival of independent bookstores and dare we say, humanity.

Independent bookstores are the places where freedom of speech and anti-censorship are integrated into everything we do. We are spaces where difference-of ideas, sexuality, spirit, politics, and philosophy-is embraced and not feared. Politics and Prose has been exactly this kind of place for the past 27 years. Independent bookstores are essential to their communities and hence to a truly democratic nation. The survival of our bookstores relies on children becoming informed and engaged in our midsts. Only through the nurturing of this future community will we ensure having a customer base on which to rely.

Carla Cohen and Eileen DenglerFrom NAIBA President Lucy Kogler's letter on Oct. 11, 2010:

Loss is certainly a part of life's cycle, but our region has taken another mighty hit. Carla Cohen, co-owner of Politics and Prose, a past president of NAIBA, this year's NAIBA legacy winner, and a woman of great wisdom and distinction, has passed.

When I think of Carla I think of a lioness. Not in the protective sense of shielding, but in the noble sense of dutifully doing the work of teaching her bookselling progeny, feeding them and the bookselling community with the ideas and examples of a leader passionately committed to her job and chosen role within her profession, within the pride.

Carla was a woman who never compromised her intelligence, wit, or forthright nature. When I first became a NAIBA board member, I sat in awe of her prodigious sense of self as woman and bookseller. I marveled at her absolute certainty that what she was telling us needed to be articulated. Not that what she said was law, but that what was said needed to be a component of a thoughtful decision. She wanted us to not be afraid to think and dream in an expansive and unpredictable way.

Her legacy to us is legion: mentor, role model, friend, and advisor. A woman with impeccable and varied tastes in literature, she kept independent bookselling in front of the nation in the capital of our nation.

It was an honor to know her, to serve on the NAIBA board with her, to witness her commitment to her booksellers, and it was a great pleasure to hear her voice and laugh. Hers is an absence that will resonate with all her grandeur.