- Her book “All My Rage,” follows a working-class Pakistani American family from Lahore to Juniper, California, where they run a motel.
Pakistani America Sabaa Tahir has received the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for her book “All My Rage. It follows a working-class Pakistani American family from Lahore to Juniper, California, where they run a motel.
The National Book Award, established in 1950, is among the most prestigious literary awards in the world. This year’s awards ceremony was held in person after two years of remote events at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City, Nov. 16.
The evening was hosted by producer, food expert, television host, and author, Padma Lakshmi. According to Publishers Weekly, Lakshmi “kicked off the event by underscoring how books can also feed us, by sparking new ideas, exposing us to new people and culture, and expanding our understanding of the world.” She is the author of several cookbooks and a picture book, “Tomatoes for Neela,” about three generations of Indian girls and women cooking together. Taking about how books like hers are “under attack in schools across the country,” she “denounced the unprecedented wave of book bans,” Publishers Weekly said.
The National Book Award judges, in their citation, said “Tahir has created a compelling cross-generational story where characters are interconnected in their search for community.” They said the book is “of the moment, urgent in its honest depiction of abuse, debt, and the significance of forgiveness.”
In her heartfelt NBA acceptance speech, Tahir noted that she’s “the first Muslim and Pakistani American woman to win this award.” She thanked the judges and her fellow finalists and dedicated her award “my Muslim sisters in too many places to count, who are fighting for their lives, their autonomy, their bodies, and their right to live and tell their own stories without fear. Sisters, may you rise and may you be victorious against the oppressors,” according to Publishers Weekly. She expressed her gratitude to “every librarian and educator and bookseller who has put my work into the hands of a young person who needs it.”
Recounting her family history, from her grandfather who was a sharecropper with a fourth-grade education, her grandmother who was illiterate, and to her parents who came to America almost 40 years ago to the day, she said, “This feels like an impossible dream.” Speaking as the child of immigrants, she said, “So many of our parents’ dreams died so that the dreams of my generation could live.” To her parents, she said, “Your love and prayers and sacrifice have lifted our stories beyond my imagining.”
Tahir is the New York Times bestselling author of the “An Ember in the Ashes” series, which has been translated into over thirty-five languages. She grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash, and playing guitar badly. She began writing “An Ember in the Ashes” while working nights as a newspaper editor.
The Pakistani American has been a professional author since 2015 and a journalist before that. Her books have sold more than a million copies worldwide. They are New York Times and international bestsellers and have been honored by TIME Magazine on a list of the 100 best fantasy books of all time. Her work has appeared on numerous best books of the year lists.