by Sarah Mulhern Gross
On March 30th NJCTE will present author Ibi Zoboi with the 2019 Muriel Becker Award for Literary Excellence. The Muriel Becker Award is the highest honor bestowed on a writer by the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English. The award is named for Muriel Becker, a guiding spirit and the voice of the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English for many years. As a three-term president, long-time coordinator of the student writing contest, editor and co-editor of FOCUS, grant writer, and behind-the-scenes producer of the annual STARS conference, Muriel was a key person in almost every achievement of NJCTE. We are honored to give this award in her honor each year.
The Becker Award has been given annually since the 1980s to a writer deemed by the Becker Award committee to be someone who reflects the best of positive ideals that inspire young readers to high achievement. This definition is extended to include writers whose body of works have touched young adult readers, and those whose careers are just beginning to be recognized as exceptional. It was clear to this year’s committee that Ibi Zoboi exceeds these criteria. Her writing is certainly exceptional! Her debut young adult novel, American Street, was a National Book Award finalist. She has gone on to write Pride, a YA remix of Pride and Prejudice set in Brooklyn, and edit Black Enough, a collection of stories about what it’s like to be young and Black in America. Her middle grade debut, My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, will be released this summer.
She regularly works with young readers; she designed and taught a course on female archetypes in world mythology to young women in the Sadie Nash Leadership Project where she also taught creative writing and leadership classes. She has been a volunteer mentor with Girls Write Now, Inc. The Daughters of Anacaona Writing Project, her original program, partnered with local organizations Dwa Fanm, Inc. and Haiti Cultural Exchange in Brooklyn, and Fondasyon Felicite in Haiti to conduct a 3-day workshop with teen girls in Port-au-Prince.
Born in Haiti, Zoboi immigrated to New York when she was four. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her writing has been published in The New York Times Book Review, the Horn Book Magazine, and The Rumpus, among others.
The Becker Award committee is thrilled to present Ibi Zoboi with this year’s award at our annual spring conference. After receiving the award, Ibi Zoboi will present the Becker Address. Be sure to sign up now to be in attendance!