Elizabeth Acevedo has become the first writer of color to win the Carnegie medal award in its 83-year history.
Acevedo won the prestigious children’s book award for her debut novel, The Poet X. Acevedo, which revolves around a Dominican girl, Xiomara, who finds comfort when she joins the slam poetry club at her school in Harlem.
Head of the jury, Alison Brumwell, described the novel as, “a searing, unflinching exploration of culture, family and faith within a truly innovative verse structure”.
Acevedo said her novel was inspired from a student she had taught during her job as a teacher at a secondary school in Maryland; the student refused to read the books on the syllabus, which featured no characters of colour, arguing that “none of these books are about us.”
“I felt like this student had given me a challenge, or at least permission to grab the baton,” Acevedo said in her acceptance speech.
“She gave me permission to write a story about young people who take up space, who do not make themselves small, who learn the power of their own words,” she added.
“I think we should have poetry in every room as much as possible, and because I fundamentally believe in Dr Rudine Sims Bishop’s words that children’s literature should be a mirror and a window."