The NAIBA Carla Cohen Free Speech Award
Judy Blume spent her childhood in Elizabeth, New Jersey, making up stories inside her head. She has spent her adult years in many places doing the same thing, only now she writes her stories down on paper. Adults as well as children will recognize such Blume titles as: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Blubber; Just as Long as We're Together; and the five book series about the irrepressible Fudge. She has also written three novels for adults, Summer Sisters; Smart Women; and Wifey, all of them New York Times bestsellers. More than 80 million copies of her books have been sold, and her work has been translated into thirty-one languages. She receives thousands of letters a year from readers of all ages who share their feelings and concerns with her.
Judy received a B.S. in education from New York University in 1961, which named her a Distinguished Alumna in 1996, the same year the American Library Association honored her with the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2004 she received the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
She is the founder and trustee of The Kids Fund, a charitable and educational foundation. She serves on the boards of the Author's Guild; the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators; the Key West Literary Seminar; and the National Coalition Against Censorship.
Judy is a longtime advocate of intellectual freedom. Finding herself at the center of an organized book banning campaign in the 1980's she began to reach out to other writers, as well as teachers and librarians, who were under fire. Since then, she has worked tirelessly with the National Coalition Against Censorship to protect the freedom to read. She is the editor of Places I Never Meant To Be, Original Stories by Censored Writers.
Judy and her husband George Cooper live on islands up and down the east coast. They have three grown children and one grandchild.
Previous Winners of the NAIBA Carla Cohen Free Speech Award:
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.
From 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.