Indian-American wins 2019 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature

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Author Sharmila Sen (Photo: hup.harvard.edu)

The Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), an affiliate of the American Library Association, announced the winners of the 2019 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature (APAAL). The winner in the Adult Non-Fiction category is an Indian-American.

Sharmila Sen won in the category for her book  Not Quite Not White: Losing and Finding Race in America, published by Penguin Books. It is a “deeply personal memoir and a primer on race” according to APALA which describes it as “a richly literary examination of the various systems of class, race, religion, and culture that defined who she is, drawing on her familial and educational backgrounds in Hindu mythology, Indian politics, British and American literature, Bollywood, American television, and more.”

In it Sen challenges this yearning for whiteness and searches instead for a messy but fuller embrace of all races in America, the Jan. 28 press release notes.

According to her profile on the Penguin Random House website, Sen grew up in Calcutta, and immigrated to the U.S. when she was 12. She grew up in Cambridge, Mass., graduated from Harvard and earned her Ph.D. from Yale in English literature. She taught courses on literatures from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean for seven years as a professor at Harvard. She is executive editor-at-large at Harvard University Press. Sen has lived and worked in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, lectured around the world on postcolonial literature and culture and published essays on racism and immigration. She lives in Cambridge, Mass., with her architect husband and their three children.

Publisher’s Weekly called Sen’s book a “captivating memoir” where Sen examines her immensely privileged background in 1970s Calcutta, as well as paints “vivid and often disturbing picture of poverty in India,” and explores her transition to becoming a minority in the U.S.

“Readers interested in first-generation immigrant stories will enjoy this heartfelt account of how newcomers carve a space for themselves in the melting pot of America,” Publishers Weekly said.

The APALA awards promote Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage and are awarded to titles published from October 2017 to September 2018 based on their literary and artistic merit.

There are five categories for the Awards. Each committee selected a winning title for the category.

Each award will be named and given the award seal and plaques during the annual APALA Literature Award Ceremony taking place during the ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C. June 20-25.

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