AML Awards 2013

2013 Melissa Dalton-Bradford Global Mom: Eight Countries, Sixteen Addresses, Five Languages, One Family Creative Nonfiction, Memoir Melissa Dalton-Bradford takes her reader on journeys to humor and heartbreak, across borders of multiple countries, beyond unthinkable edges of grief, and into several languages. The reader is rewarded by a new sense of the world and of humanity, as well as by Dalton-Bradford’s poetic word crafting. Her book is a gift to all who read it.
2013 Garrett Batty The Saratov Approach Film Batty’s film, which he wrote and directed, will be remembered as an important mark in LDS cinema as it moved beyond the Mormon corridor to critical praise in New York and California. The Saratov Approach will be remembered in Mormon history as a film about two young men—kidnapping victims–who happen to be Mormon, but whose story is compelling for any audience member. The characters are well-developed, and the dramatic arc beautifully fulfilled in this fine work. Though we recognize that all films are collaborative, we honor Garrett Batty for his vision and passion which made his script come to life on many screens.
2013 Scott Hales The Garden of Enid Humor Enid is the kind of child you could easily love to hate: she’s opinionated, she’s bright, she asks hard questions and she’s very, very outspoken!¶ In his delightful comic strip, Enid reflects many of the doubts, concerns and feelings of all Latter-day Saints. Enid cannot be misconstrued – she’s Mormon through and through (whether she likes it or not). And lately, and of particular interest to those involved with the Association for Mormon Letters, Enid has been very vocal about the definition of Mormon Literature…¶ Through the eyes of this troubling teen, the reader has cause to reflect upon his or her own experiences in seminary, or sacrament meeting, or a boring Sunday school class. We may not always agree with Enid’s conclusions, but we are glad she has chosen to share them with us and may she continue to do so for years to come.
2013 Sarah Eden Longing for Home Novel When I was asked to help judge the AML Award for novels I was immediately excited to read the literary fiction, speculative fiction, and fantasy books. Very much less so the “women’s fiction”/romance category. Being a male, in my head I had a preconceived notion of romance novels and they were not anything that appealed to me. But to be a judge one must be unbiased and give all entrants a fair chance. So I picked up Sarah M. Eden’s Longing for Home first simply because it was the longest. I intended to read it, be done quickly, and move on to more interesting things without a second thought. So imagine my surprise when I found myself grinning at Katie’s decisive and cold rejection of pretty-boy Tavish in the opening pages. A few more pages and I was expertly drawn into Katie’s tapestry of problems. These characters had breadth, depth, and human complications and I cared about what happened to them. Every conception in my mind of what a “romance” novel entails was turned on its head by this book. I won’t give away details because you should read it for yourself, woman or man, but I will say that I laughed, I smiled, and yes, I cried. Sarah M. Eden has done a masterful job spinning a tale of drama, intrigue, and even some mystery; all while crafting human, believable, appropriately flawed characters. These elements are all sewn together into a haunting and memorable love story. Suffice it to say that this book is truly deserving of AML’s 2013 Literary Award for Novel. And I will be reading the sequel!
2013 Charlotte Hawkins England Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for service to Mormon Letters From the time Charlotte and Gene England married and then served as missionary companions in Samoa, they were united on religious and artistic fronts—Charlotte as an artist and Eugene as an essayist and connoisseur of stained glass, Mormon literature, and Charlotte’s inimitable ice cream. Together, they showed the pattern of true companionship, the epitome of what Gene envisioned in his essay “Sweet are the Uses of Fidelity.”¶ In 1976, Gene co-founded The Association for Mormon Letters, and Charlotte offered their home for post-AML conference readings. Charlotte was more than a faithful companion to her husband, but an inspiration, sometimes a set of brakes, and always a radiant example of beauty and creativity.¶ She and Gene hosted not only AML award winners, but BYU students, poets (including Leslie Norris), church leaders, and provocative lecturers. Though they were accustomed to cabin living, they chose to build a roomy and well-appointed home so that they could host such events.¶ It is fitting that the Association for Mormon Letters Conference will now be moved to BYU-Hawaii, where many Samoan students (as well as other islanders) might help it blossom.¶ The Association for Mormon Letters honors Charlotte Hawkins England for the support and service rendered to innumerable students, writers, dreamers, and lovers of all good things.
2013 Dean Hughes Outstanding Achievement Award In a field replete with novels exploring post-apocalyptic worlds, science fiction and fantasy, and vampires, lots of vampires; where themes are often dark and negative, Dean Hughes stands as an outstanding example of the power of the positive world view. With more than one hundred books published in his thirty-five year career, Hughes is not done with storytelling just yet.¶ From his numerous series of early reader chapter books and middle grade novels to large scale historical epics Dean Hughes has managed to traverse the perilous divide between LDS and non-LDS worlds and find fans in both. With a PhD in Literature, Hughes’ published works range from the esoteric to the intimately approachable; from the snappily titled: Romance and psychological realism in William Godwin’s novels to Nutty for President, he has produced a body of work that would be difficult if not impossible to emulate.¶ The Association for Mormon Letters is proud to acknowledge Dean Hughes for his outstanding achievement in literature.
2013 Cindy M. Hogan Gravediggers Young Adult Fiction In her novel, Cindy Hogan has used a gentle hand to guide us through the lives and challenges of Billy and his friends in small town USA (with a southern drawl). This is a novel about friendships – what strengthens them and what can destroy them. It is also about grief and the pain of the unresolved. Using the metaphor of the grave digger, Hogan explores seventeen-year-old Billy’s need to “dig up” the past, literally and metaphorically in order to answer the burning question of who killed his father in a hit and run incident years previously. Billy’s mother just wants to forget and move on, so does Billy’s father figure, the local sheriff, and pretty much everybody in his town. However, with the discovery of a mysterious box in the cemetery, and at the prompting of his friend Henry’s cousin, Amanda (who had somehow between visits from Florida transformed for a know-it-all caterpillar into a very smart butterfly) Billy presses on.¶ Gravediggers is a novel with a resolution for Billy, an affirmation of friendship and the possibility of love in the future.
2013 Brandon Sanderson The Rithmatist Young Adult Speculative Fiction Brandon Sanderson teaches the reader many things in this innovative and delightfully quirky novel. We learn that the North America we know is actually the United Isles; that all mechanical objects work by clockwork mechanisms (including trains) and that Nebraska is a very dangerous place! We learn that chalk, in the right hands, has remarkable powers and that to succeed as a Rithmatist, you have to be a really, really good drawer – and a fast one too.¶ In a fantastic combination of steam punk, coming of age and murder mystery genres we are led on a wild ride filled with inventive details in a world that is neither future nor past but is somehow timeless. With illustrations by Ben McSweeney to help the reader understand the precise nature of rithmatics, we learn through the eyes of Joel and Melody, the intricacies of this discipline and its power as a form of warfare as well as the power of friendship. Along the way there is social commentary on the nature of privilege and power in society, however, as often holds true, an individual with passion and a dream can make an indelible mark.¶ Thank you, Brandon, for permitting us to take this fantastic journey with you.
2013 Ariel Mitchell A Second Birth Drama Often in the past, in the Drama category, AML has chosen to reward authors who have written with insight and dramatic power about Mormon culture. But one of the great challenges for any writer is the difficulty in conveying and presenting the customs and world view of a different culture from the writer’s own. This is what Mitchell, with grace, intelligence and humor, has done in A Second Birth.¶ In contemporary Afghanistan, families who do not have a male child, will designate a daughter a bacha posh, a girl allowed to live the life of a boy. In a rigidly gendered culture, boys have real advantages, one of which, for an impoverished family, is the right to take a part-time job. And that small additional income may make a huge difference to the family economy.¶ Such is the case in Mitchell’s play. Nasima is known, to friends and neighbors, as Nasim. She has lived as a boy; attended an all-boys school, played on the school’s soccer team, and she has found employment; worked in a shop. She also has a best friend, Yasim, with whom she enjoys boyish banter, about his poor math skills and her weakness at soccer. Now, however, approaching adulthood, Nasima is told that it is time for her to embrace life as a woman. She must learn how to dress as a woman, how to comport herself, how to follow and obey, as a woman must. All these lessons come hard. And then she learns that her father has arranged a marriage for her. And it is with Yasim.¶ Nasim/Nasima’s struggle is conveyed with humor, compassion and real insight. And the play describes cultural practices very far removed from our own without condescension. Of course the subject matter of the play is politically supercharged, speaking as it does to such fundamental issues of gender and sexual difference. But Mitchell is wise enough to understand that the situation speaks for itself; that she doesn’t need to amp up the arguments the play presents.¶ The play is a comedy, and a gentle one. But Mitchell creates real human characters, not just Nasim/Nasima, but also characters like her father or mother, both of whom could easily have been stereotyped as villainous. And over the course of the play our own cultural prejudices melt away. The world of bacha posh feels very strange to us initially. But that’s the world these characters inhabit. And we join them in it gracefully and easily.

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