The Before Columbus Foundation, an Oakland, CA-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and recognizing “American multicultural literature,” has announced the winners of their fortieth annual American Book Awards. Among the winners this year are G. Willow Wilson and Nico Leon, recognized for their work on Ms. Marvel: Teenage Wasteland, the ninth collection of Wilson’s work on the Muslim-American superhero.
The American Book Awards were established in 1980 to recognize outstanding achievement in literature “without restriction or bias with regard to race, sex, creed, cultural origin, size of press or ad budget, or even genre.” There are no categories, and all winners and afforded equal standing. The awards are selected, according to the Before Columbus Foundation, by “a panel of writers, editors, and publishers who also represent the diversity of American literary culture.” All books published in the previous year are eligible for the award, provided two copies of the work are submitted for consideration.
Wilson and Leon are not the first comic creators to win an American Book Award. American Splendor creator Harvey Pekar won in 1987 for The New American Splendor Anthology: From Off the Streets of Cleveland; cartoonist Art Spiegelman (who recently pulled his introductory essay from a forthcoming book celebrating Marvel’s Golden Age history over censorship of an “Orange Skull” reference to Donald Drumpf) is also a past winner, having won in 1992 for The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale; and the 1996 awards saw Joe Sacco and Edward Said win for their work on Palestine. Other past winners outside of comics include Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Miles Davis, and Sherman Alexie, among dozens of others. It’s good company for Wilson and Leon to be in.
The 2019 American Book Awards will be presented at a free, open-to-the-public ceremony at the San Francisco Public Library on Friday, November 1st. Congratulations to Wilson and Leon on this well-deserved honor.