The Women’s National Book Association is pleased to announce the winner of the WNBA award for 2004 is Nancy Pearl, author, librarian, book reviewer, and radio talk show personality. The fiftieth recipient of the prestigious award, Pearl is being honored for her extraordinary contributions to the world of books. WNBA will present the award at a reception at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC on Friday, January 28 at 6:00 pm co-sponsored by The Center for the Book at the LOC. Another reception in Pearl’s honor will be held in Manhattan on the eve of BookExpo America, Thursday, June 2, sponsored by the New York City chapter of WNBA.
Created in 1940, bestowed annually until 1975 and every two years from 1976 on, the WNBA award honors living American women who derive all or part of their income from books and related arts, and who have done outstanding work promoting books and literacy well beyond the boundaries of their professional obligations.
Having spent the past three decades galvanizing readers and markets by promoting books and literacy for readers of all ages and backgrounds, Pearl has just retired from the Seattle Public Library as director of Youth Services at the Washington Center for the Book. During her eleven years there, she founded the ‘If All Seattle Reads the Same Book’ program, which has become a model for reading programs in urban and rural communities across the country.
Her weekly radio show on KUOW-FM (94.9) in Seattle and her frequent guest appearances on National Public Radio have also sent people scurrying to bookstores and libraries. Broadcasters and reporters delight in tapping her prodigious memory. She is especially fond of reciting first lines from her favorite books’in print, in person, and on the air.
The indefatigable Pearl is now free to take her book show more fully on the road, and she finds herself ‘booked’ as guest speaker months in advance. Her current whirlwind tour highlights her two newest projects, the widely admired Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason, and her Book Lust 2005: A Reader’s Calendar (with David Belisle), both published by Sasquatch Books, which has been delighted by sales of more than 60,000 copies of the book alone. Sasquatch also expects to publish Pearl’s next book, More Book Lust, in May 2005. Sasquatch Books is found at: www.sasquatchbooks.com
Another project emerged unexpectedly: Pearl was asked to be the model for a new action figure, ‘The Librarian.’ Pearl’s now familiar face and ‘shushing’ gesture peer out from bookstore shelves wherever her five-inch figure stands. According to manufacturer Archie McPhee, Pearl’s action figure has been outselling even those of Moses and Beethoven.
Pearl is no stranger to recognition, however. She has received numerous prizes, most recently the Louis Shores-Greenwood Publishing Group Award (2004), Washington Humanities Award (2003), Allie Beth Martin Award (2001), and Library Journal’s Fiction Reviewer of the Year (1998). She was selected for the WNBA award by the WNBA national board of directors at its annual meeting in Detroit.
When notified at her home in Seattle by WNBA award chair Katharine Turok, Pearl said she was ‘completely overwhelmed to be in the company of the other WNBA award winners.’ The last four honorees were Patricia McKissack, Patricia Schroeder, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Carolyn Heilbrun. Earlier award holders include Jessie Carney Smith, Barbara Bush, Barbara Tuchman, Margaret K. McElderry, Blanche W. Knopf, Rachel Carson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Pearl Buck.
Originally called the Constance Lindsay Skinner Award, the award’s namesake made her living from writing at a time when very few women or men were able to do so. After spending her childhood on a remote trading post in British Columbia, Skinner wrote in many different genres about frontier and city life after moving to New York City in 1912.
Skinner discovered WNBA when she was living in Manhattan. She served as vice-president and in 1936 helped to sponsor the first issue of The Bookwoman. After her death three years later, WNBA initiated the award in her name. Like Skinner, Nancy Pearl is an adventurous, independent, innovative, articulate bookwoman.
The Washington, DC chapter will host the January award presentation to Pearl at the Library of Congress. Speakers will include Jill A. Tardiff, WNBA president; John Cole, director of The Center for the Book at the Library of Congress; and Carla Danziger, president of the Washington, DC chapter.
The WNBA, a broad-based non-profit organization, was founded in New York City in 1917 when women were not allowed to attend the annual book industry conference. With chapters open to women and men in nine cities, numerous corporate sustaining members, and corresponding members’all who work with and value books–WNBA exists to promote reading and to support the role of women in the community of the book.