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The 2021 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize

The 2021 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize Winners

This past year I had the honor of being on the committee for the GLLI Translated YA Book Prize. This meant I took a deep dive into books originally written in a language other than English that had been translated into English. GLLI stands for Global Literature in Libraries Initiative and I joined a great roster of other librarians as we read through a large number of submissions and met virtually to talk about these books.

I have been a YA/Youth/Teen Librarian for 28 years now and I’m going to be honest, this is the first time I was really asked to pay particular attention to translated works. Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks! It was a fascinating journey into other worlds in such a focused way. As someone who reads primarily American YA lit, there were a lot of similarities and a few key differences.

For one, I couldn’t help but notice how many of the submissions from other countries focused on teens in war torn countries. I am not unaware that other countries have been facing horrific wars, many of them for centuries, but reading works from other countries really brought this reality into a visceral focus for me. These accounts were heartbreaking to read, but so vitally important. The stark realities of war laid bare are not an easy read, but I am glad that I read them. It is an important reminder that we must work harder to bring about peace for all nations because the damage we are doing is traumatic and generational.

In other ways, the books read exactly like YA literature in America because adolescent development and the teen brain is, well, universally the same in a lot of ways. These books featured teens wrestling with identity, acceptance, and trying to figure out what their next steps were. Any teen could pick them up and related to the eternal teen struggle of who am I and who am I becoming. So many of the books that I read had an authentic and engaging teen voice, something that many YA writers fail at, and they shared moving, universal adolescent journeys. Although each country has their own unique challenges, teens around the world are often facing the same existential challenges.

It was such a remarkable and fascinating journey around the globe that I highly recommend to any and all readers of all ages. And to help you do that, here is the press release about the winners and the short list, which is a handy little starting point in reading some global literature.

PRESS RELEASE

SEATTLE – Two titles celebrating contemporary gay life in Brazil – Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins and Where We Go from Here by Lucas Rocha (both translated from the Portuguese by Larissa Helena and published by Scholastic Press) – are the co-winners of the 2021 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize.  Administered by the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative, the three-year-old prize recognizes publishers, translators, and authors of books in English translation for young adult (YA) readers.

“We are particularly excited to award these two outstanding novels from Brazil,” said David Jacobson, chair of the prize committee.  “We see far too few translations from our neighbors in Latin America and it is gratifying to see publishers making them available for teens in English.”

Here the Whole Time is a touching coming-of-age story that expresses the vulnerability of an overweight gay teen, with humor, heart, and authenticity.  Where We Go from Here, set in Rio de Janeiro, tackles the taboo subject of prejudice against those who are HIV positive with joy and humanity.  

In-depth interviews with the authors and translators of this year’s and last year’s winners of the GLLI Translated YA Book Prize will be featured in an online presentation to be released on April 14 at 2:30pm CDT as part of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival.  The festival is free and open to the public (registration required).

In a separate but related announcement, GLLI is contributing its library of titles to the new International Youth Literature Collection that is being established and announced today at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey’s Archibald S. Alexander Library, in New Brunswick, NJ.  

The Alexander Library is celebrating the opening of the new collection with an online event, which takes place today at 11am Eastern (please register).  The event will feature a tour of the collection, picture book readings in a number of foreign languages including prominent author-illustrators Peter Sís (Czech) and Roger Mello (Portuguese), as well as the live announcement of the GLLI award.

Both the GLLI and Rutgers announcements are timed to coincide with International Children’s Book Day, which falls on April 2, the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen.

“There is no question this has been a banner year for young adult literature in translation!” commented GLLI Executive Director Karen Van Drie. “Submissions have increased by more than a third this year. That suggests growing publisher interest and commitment to global literature and their recognition of the importance of sharing perspectives from abroad.”

Fewer young adult (YA) books are translated into English than any other type of children’s literature. The GLLI prize aims to focus attention on the gems of world literature for 12-to-18-year-olds.

The committee also selected two honor books:  Almond by Won-pyung Sohn (translated from the Korean by Sandy Joosun Lee and published by HarperVia), the gritty story of a Korean teen born with a condition that leaves him unable to identify or express emotion, and The End by Mats Strandberg (translated from the Swedish by Judith Kiros and published by Arctis Books), in which Swedish teens have 4 months to come to grips with the fact that world will be ending.  

The winning books were selected from a field of titles translated from 16 languages and representing 21 countries or regions from Bangladesh to Belgium. Works published within three years of the submission deadline were considered.  The shortlist of 13 titles contains a diversity of themes and subject matter of interest to every teen imaginable:  from a horror story about a Halloween-like event gone wrong, the true voices of immigrants crossing the US southern border, and a graphic novel of friendship amid a zombie apocalypse, to a magical, fable-like tale of a stereotype-busting woman from Palestine.   

Members of the prize committee include David Jacobson, chair and author/Japanese translator; Catharine Bomhold, University of Southern Mississippi; Abigail Hsu, Morristown & Morris Township Library; Karen Jensen, Fort Worth Public Library; Lynn E. Palermo, Susquehanna University; Karen Van Drie, GLLI executive director/international literature and libraries consultant; Sujei Lugo Vázquez, Boston Public Library; and Rachel Wang Yung-Hsin, writer/translator and Kirkus reviewer.

The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative brings together translators, librarians, teachers, editors and others dedicated to helping librarians identify and raise the visibility of world literature for children, teens, and adults. Our activities include creating pan-publisher catalogs; maintaining a database of translations; sharing ideas for selecting, evaluating, using and promoting world literature for all ages; and administering the GLLI Translated YA Book Prize.  We regularly showcase and review world literature on our blog and featured Brazilian literature most recently in April 2020.  Check us out on Facebook, Twitter (@GlobalLitin), as well as at our website

For more information about the prize and instructions for 2022 submissions, see https://glli-us.org/prizes/

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The 2021 Shortlist

Abigail by Magda Szabó, translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix (New York Review Books, 2020) — HUNGARY

Almond by Won-pyung Sohn, translated from the Korean by Sandy Joosun Lee (HarperVia, 2020) – SOUTH KOREA

The Blue Wings by Jef Aerts, translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson (Levine Querido, 2020) — BELGIUM

A Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Gier, translated from the German by Romy Fursland (Henry Holt, 2020) – GERMANY

The End by Mats Strandberg, translated from the Swedish by Judith Kiros (Arctis Books, 2020) – SWEDEN

Ever After written, illustrated and translated from the German by Olivia Vieweg (Lerner, 2020) – GERMANY

The Forgotten Book by Mechthild Gläser, translated from the German by Romy Fursland (Feiwel & Friends, 2018) — GERMANY

Fright Night by Maren Stoffels, translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson (Delacorte, 2020) – THE NETHERLANDS

Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins, translated from the Portuguese by Larissa Helena (Scholastic, 2020) – BRAZIL

The Other Side by Juan Pablo Villalobos, translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2019) – MEXICO

Run for Your Life by Silvana Gandolfi, translated from the Italian by Lynne Sharon Schwartz (Restless Books, 2018) – ITALY

Where We Go from Here by Lucas Rocha, translated from the Portuguese by Larissa Helena (Scholastic, 2020) – BRAZIL

Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands by Sonia Nimr, translated from the Arabic by Marcia Lynx Qualey (Interlink Publishing, 2020) – PALESTINE

Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands by Sonia Nimr, translated from the Arabic by Marcia Lynx Qualey (Interlink Publishing, 2020) – PALESTINE

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