Andrea Davis Pinkney
To: The Women's National Book Association/LA Chapter
and the Judy Lopez Memorial Foundation
When I learned that my novel Bird in a Box had been selected as an honor book for the Judy Lopez Memorial Award, I squealed with the kind of delight that only comes from the happiest of authors. To be in the same company as Matthew Kirby, Joan Baur and Eugene Yelchin is a true honor, and I regret that, due to out of town family travel, I am not able to be with you this evening to share in the festivities.
Though I could not come to Los Angeles this weekend, the cherry on top of this already-sweet cake, is to be honored in the name of Judy Lopez. Ms. Lopez’s affiliation with the Women’s National Book Association underscores the power of books and reading, but also emphasizes the tremendous impact women have on literature.
There’s something to be said for women and the beauty of storytelling. Like quilting, we can stitch color and tradition into something warm and beautiful, by the simple act of sharing memories that become the stories that shape our lives.
This is how Bird in a Box began, through the storytelling power of women. My grandmother, the late Marjorie Francis Williams, loved to tell stories about her father, my great-grandfather, whose name was Cyclone Williams. As a child, Cyclone was an amateur kid-boxer growing up during the Great Depression. More than anything, this determined youngster wanted to be just like the legendary boxer Joe Louis, who in 1937 became the Heavyweight Champion of the World. Cyclone’s story is one of tenacity, tragedy, grit, and triumph. It was a story I was eager to share with young readers in a work of historical fiction.
Cyclone’s life and times became the story of Willie Martel in Bird in a Box. Willie is a kid who is reaching for a dream, along with the book’s other young characters, Otis Rollins and Hibernia Lee Tyson.
In Bird in a Box, these young people have the same passion and determination that Judy Lopez had. They each want a better world through the power of one central theme – love. While I never had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Lopez, I do know that she had a deep appreciation for the strength of human connection. That is what books and stories do. They draw us together through our humanity.
This is why The Judy Lopez Memorial Award means so much to me – it celebrates our human connection through literature.
Thank you so much to the Judy Lopez Memorial Award awards committee for honoring Bird in a Box, and for reminding us that storytelling’s legacy endures.