This morning, the supremely classy Lauren Myracle withdrew her novel Shine from consideration for the National Book Award, after being asked to by the National Book Foundation. Why? Because they f’ed up and misheard “Shine” when the judge called in to nominate “Chime”, and the NBF couldn’t bear to stand by their earlier decision to let six books stay as finalists. (The Huffington Post has a great article on the whole mess, with awesome quotes from Twitter on the whole brouhaha.) As I said on Twitter, I’m heartbroken that Lauren has withdrawn SHINE from consideration for an NBA. I’m FURIOUS that she was asked to. And I can only echo Libba Bray’s comments on the whole mess:
I ask you: Is publicly humiliating an author “preserving the integrity” of the award?
Is asking an author you have embarrassed in multiple media outlets to RECUSE herself in order to rectify YOUR STUPID MISTAKE, “preserving the integrity” of the award? Because it reads like an unconscionable, cowardly move to me.
Is that kind of like when Wall Street says, “Oh, sorry we screwed up the economy, jobless folks, but could you, like, not block the access to my high-in-the-sky comfy office where I blow my nose on freshly minted twenties while crying that I am the victim of class warfare by the poor?” Jesus Christ on a crutch. Quite frankly, I do not see how the awards can be seen as anything other than a joke at this point, which is a shame, because the finalists are a group of talented, hard-working authors who deserve to be recognized without the taint of this debacle hanging over it all. But too late—it’s there. And it could have been avoided.
You know who has preserved her integrity? Lauren Myracle, that’s who.
I have been fortunate enough to count Lauren as a friend for a few years now, and I, like everyone else who loves Lauren, know her to be a real class act. She is kind, funny, generous, encouraging of other writers, and very present for the many kids and teens who write to her telling her how much her books, SHINE in particular, have meant to them, how she has offered a voice to some who are voiceless. SHINE, in case you do not know it, is about a hate crime against a gay teen and how it affects an entire community. This is, sadly, a reality for teens in much of the world, and, as Lauren said in her gracious statement, “I was also deeply moved that in recognizing “Shine,” the NBF was giving voice to the thousands of disenfranchised youth in America—particularly gay youth—who face massive discrimination and intimidation every day. So that something positive may come of their error, I have strongly suggested that the NBF donate to the Matthew Shepard Foundation [a charity focused on respecting human dignity among young people].”
This is why—and please excuse the pun—Lauren Myracle shines. Even in the midst of such personal disappointment, she manages to rise above and turn the situation into an opportunity for good. She alone has “preserved the integrity of the award” with this generous, gracious gesture. As a writer, she is fearless. She writes openly and honestly about topics which frequently land her on the most-banned-books list. She has faced down censors with grace and logic without resorting to demonizing them. She is at the forefront of the fight against censorship and for intellectual freedom. That this should happen to such a lovely person enrages me beyond rational words.
I am not as nice as Lauren is. And especially not when I am moved to put on my serious, Texas-Brooklyn girl ass-kicking boots. So I will say it: You fucked up, NBA. You fucked up in such a colossal, tone-deaf, insulting, humiliating way that I almost wish there were a National Fuck-Up Awards Foundation so we could give you the gold. Bravo. Take a fucking bow. And then, maybe you could take a moment to reflect upon how much “preserving the integrity” of your award cost you.
My boots are on, too.