Friday, November 03, 2006


A nice, unexpected honor arrived with yesterday's announcement of the American Library Association's 2007 nominees for Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA). Out of uncounted thousands of books eligible for the honor, the ALA nominated Mom's Cancer and 231 other titles, a list that (I gather) a blue-ribbon committee will trim by more than half in January. Those that make the cut will be official 2007 BBYAs, with a Top Ten list highlighting the best of the best. This is a potentially big deal, as librarians throughout the country look to the ALA's guidance when deciding how to spend their meager book-buying funds.

As I say, the nomination was unexpected, partly because I had no idea my work was being considered but mostly because I never thought of Mom's Cancer as a young adult book. I can certainly see how that could work, though, and in fact young adult literature includes some of the best writing and most challenging concepts around. I have a ton of respect for the field; I just didn't realize I was in it. I also think there are many readers whose first instinct when seeing comics in a book is to think "kids' stuff." I noticed that Jessica Abel's La Perdida, R. Kikuo Johnson's Night Fisher, and The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation also made the first cut, and I don't think of them as particularly young adult titles, either. Maybe I need to expand my concept of "young adult."

The other curiosity is that Mom's Cancer got listed as fiction. Trust me, it's as non-fictional as I could make it. I wonder if the ALA was thrown off by some of my metaphorical choices, like the superheroes. I'm reminded of a story about Art Spiegelman's Maus, when the New York Times was trying to decide if it should be listed as fiction or non-fiction. As I recall the tale (no doubt inaccurately), an exasperated editor finally said, "Go knock on Spiegelman's door. If a giant mouse answers, it's non-fiction."

If anyone knocks on my door, I'll be sure to have my yellow superhero tights on.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I gave "Maus" to a teen or two when it came out, and if I had nieces and nephews over 12, they'd be getting "Mom's Cancer," too. While it's not a "kid's book" and there's something perhaps dismissive in assuming that graphic novels/memoirs are inherently childish, there's also the idea that putting difficult concepts in an accessible form is pretty valuable.

Mind you, I may not be entirely objective: I've kind of built a job around the notion that kids are bright enough to handle difficult concepts in an accessible form.