The National Book Award Festival (NBAF) at SHSU is the product of hard work by Dr. Amanda Nowlin-Obanion, who has once again brought a group of award-winning authors to Sam. Sponsored by the CHSS, the NBAF featured the young-adult trilogy March, by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. The three spent 24 hours or so at SHSU, mingling with students, faculty, and staff at a reception, formal presentation, and a breakfast.
The evening kicked off with a reception for 80 or so stakeho0lders in the Lowman Student Center, where Lewis, Aydin, and Powell patiently shook hands…
…discussed politics, literature, and the weather…
…and, of course, signed books.
From there, the authors migrated to the LSC Ballroom, where they took turns discussing their book and life experiences for about an hour and a half. Introduced by Dean Abbey Zink, Benjamin Samuel (NBA Director of Programs), and President Dana Hoyt, the three authors spoke to a packed house of approximately 650 people.
Illustrator Nate Powell discussed the challenges of drawing pictures that not only advanced the narrative, but also captured the raw emotions of the events: violence, courage, and passion.
Author Andrew Aydin discussed his career with Congressman Lewis, from his beginnings handling mail to working with emergent digital technologies. He also took credit for the idea of a graphic novel, as a means of achieving Lewis’s goal of reaching a younger audience. Pushing a “comic book,” he noted, was a tough sell, but one that Lewis warmed up to over time.
The crowd was clearly there to hear Rep. Lewis, who responded with a moving biographical discussion and rousing calls to action. He reminisced about his days on a farm in Alabama, his lack of access to college education, his parents’ admonitions “not to get in trouble,” and his own tendency to push the envelope for the right cause.
It’s a strategy that has served Lewis well over some six decades in public life. He has served in elective office for 46 years, 41 of them in US Congress. And he encouraged the young people in the audience to heed a similar call: to pursue activism for the right cause, to “get into trouble” for a good cause.
Whatever your thoughts about getting in trouble, the night was clearly a good cause, one supported by hundreds of staff, faculty, students, and locals, who offered thanks with multiple standing ovations and the purchase of probably 200 books.
LEAP students were privileged to be a small part of the proceedings, serving as somewhat ineffectual ushers (people sat where ever they wanted mostly, irrespective of instructions).
Following the event, we were able to pose with a group shot of the authors, the Dean, and event organizers, a special coda to a special evening.
Many kudos to Dr. Nowlin-Obanion, Dean Abbey Zink, and the staff of CHSS for putting on a first-class event.