2021 New Visions Award Winners

New York, NY—Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books, is thrilled to announce the results of its ninth annual New Visions Award for new authors of color. This year, Nicki Jay has won the New Visions Award for her manuscript, The Marassa: Birth*Life*Death Book I.

Established to increase the number of authors of color writing for children and teens, the New Visions Award is given to a middle grade or young adult manuscript by a new author of color or Indigenous/Native author. Winners receive a cash prize and a publishing contract with Lee & Low Books, a children’s book publisher specializing in diversity. Previous winners include Boys of the Beast by Monica Zepeda; Ink and Ashes by Valynne Maetani, an Asian/Pacific American Honor for Literature; Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh, which received three starred reviews and is a Junior Library Guild selection; Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar, which received two starred reviews and is listed as a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People; and Julieta and the Diamond Enigma by Luisana Duarte Armendáriz, which was a Best Books for Kids from the New York Public Library.

The Marassathis year’s winning manuscript, is a middle-grade high fantasy novel about four 12-year-old African-American sorcerers who discover a 500-year-old prophecy that names them as the future destroyers of their sorcerers’ community. The Marassa is destined to stand in their way.

“I began writing this book three weeks after George Floyd had been murdered by a Minnesota police officer,” said author Nicki Jay. “Protests were raging all over the planet and the world felt unsafe to me. I wondered where kids who looked like me were able to retreat from all the turmoil. I remembered how reassuring stepping into a fantasy could be, and so I began to write this one. My goal was to build a world of magic where Black sorcerers thrived right under the noses of non-magical people. A safe haven where kids could escape.”

“Fantasy fiction is close to my heart,” said Stacy Whitman, publisher of the Tu Books imprint at Lee & Low, “and this fantasy title hooked all of us on the committee from the beginning. The original worldbuilding, the joy of celebrating Black families and history, and the intrigue of the central mystery were enchanting for all of us. We love this story’s emphasis on community and unity.”

Jay attributes her love of reading to her father, who was “a voracious reader and he passed that on,” she said. That love of reading inspired her passion for writing, which began in sixth grade—she was even voted Most Likely to Become a Famous Writer in eighth grade. Though this is the sixth book she’s written, it will be the first she’s published via a traditional publisher.

In her spare time, Jay is an advocate for homeless services such as housing, shelter, meals, medical services, and clothing.

Jay will receive a cash prize of $2,000 and a publishing contract with Lee & Low Books. Publication of The Marassa is planned for 2024.

This year’s other New Visions Award finalists include Western Skies by Kaleigh Diann and Chocolate City by Keshni Washington.

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