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ASU professor wins prestigious children's book award

portrait of Jewell Parker Rhodes
May 02, 2014

Jewell Parker Rhodes’ literary career has notched another trophy, as she was recently named the recipient of the 2014 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for her 2013 novel, "Sugar."

Rhodes is the founding director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and the Piper Endowed Chair at Arizona State University. She is also a professor in the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The Jane Addams Peace Association named "Sugar" (Little, Brown and Company, 2013) this year’s winner in the Books for Older Children category.

“I am thrilled and deeply honored by the Jane Addams award. The values of social justice and equality and advocating peaceful communities are precisely the values that have inspired me my entire career,” said Rhodes, who was notified of the award on April 26. “To be recognized as a children's author is especially wonderful since all my life I've dreamed of writing for youth. Writing for youth is a privilege, and I'm happy that this award affirms I've done it well.”

Sugar is the story of a forbidden friendship between a 10-year-old girl named Sugar, the orphan daughter of former slaves, and the son of a Louisiana plantation owner after Emancipation. When workers from China are hired to work in the sugar fields, tensions erupt among every layer of plantation society.

Since 1953, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award annually acknowledges books published in the U.S. during the previous year. Books commended by the award address themes of topics that engage children in thinking about peace, justice, world community and/or equality of the sexes and all races. The books must also meet conventional standards of literacy and artistic excellence.

A national committee chooses winners and honors books for younger and older children. The 2014 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards will be presented on Friday, Oct. 17, in New York City.

In 1931, Jane Addams became the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Addams also founded the Peace Party, a progressive political party, before women had the right to vote in America.

Rhodes is the author of several award-winning books: "Voodoo Dreams," "Magic City," "Douglass’ Women," "Season," "Moon" and "Hurricane," as well as a memoir, "Porch Stories: A Grandmother’s Guide to Happiness," and "Ninth Ward," a young adult novel. She has authored two writing texts: "Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors" and "The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Non-Fiction."

Her novels have been reprinted in Germany, Italy, China, Korea, France, Turkey and the United Kingdom, and reproduced in audio, including National Public Radio’s Selected Shorts. Her literary honors include a Pulitzer Prize nomination, the American Book Award, the National Endowment of the Arts Award, the Black Caucus of the American Library Award for Literary Excellence, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for Outstanding Writing, two Arizona Book Awards and a finalist citation for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.