The latest young adult book written by William Paterson University English Professor Marina Budhos, “Watched,” has been named a Walter Dean Myers Honor Book for 2017. The prize is administered by the organization “We Need Diverse Books,” recognizing outstanding children’s literature that addresses diversity in a meaningful way. One winner and three honor books have been selected for this year. An award ceremony celebrating the distinguished authors will be held at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. on March 31.
“Watched” takes on the topic of Muslim surveillance in New York City through the eyes of fictitious character Naeem, a teenage boy who agrees to be a paid informant for the NYPD’s controversial Muslim spying operation in exchange for a clean record. An immigrant living with his Bangladeshi family in Queens, Naeem initially sees the informant post as a role of privilege and a way to enact positive change in the city. Thereafter, he starts to have misgivings.
“My hope is to tell the human story behind the headlines; the complicated choices and pressures teenagers face – especially Muslim teenagers – when their world is so riven and made precarious by violence, extremism, intolerance and mistrust,” Budhos says.
The Walter Dean Myers Award, also known as “The Walter,” is named for the late prolific children’s/young adult author Walter Dean Myers – a national ambassador for Young People’s Literature and a champion of diversity in youth literature.
“It’s incredibly thrilling to receive this honor. Walter Dean Myers was such a crucial pioneer for many of us, paving the way for diverse perspectives in children’s and young adult books,” Budhos says. “I’m also going to be standing alongside another hero –U.S. Representative John Lewis, who won for his graphic memoir.”
“At such a difficult moment in our nation’s history, this award gives ‘Watched’ national visibility to combat the rising tide of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant bigotry – through empathy and art,” Budhos adds. “What more could a novelist ask for?”
Budhos has received an EMMA (Exceptional Merit Media Award), a Rona Jaffe Award for Women Writers, and has twice received a fellowship form the New Jersey Council on the Arts. She has also been a Fulbright Scholar to India. Her previous young adult novel, “Tell Us We’re Home,” is the young adult selection for the Essex County Big Read event, occurring across Essex County, New Jersey this April. Learn more about the author and her book at www.marinabudhos.com.
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