America was intended to be a place where freedom from discrimination was the means by which equality was achieved. Today, American culture is the most diverse ever on the face of this earth. Recognizing literary excellence demands a panoramic perspective. A narrow view strictly to the mainstream ignores all the tributaries that feed it. American literature is not one tradition but all traditions. From those who have been here for thousands of years to the most recent immigrants, we are all contributing to American culture. We are all being translated into a new language. Everyone should know by now that Columbus did not "discover" America. Rather, we are all still discovering America-and we must continue to do so.

The Before Columbus Foundation was founded in 1976 as a nonprofit educational and service organization dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of contemporary American multicultural literature. The goals of BCF are to provide recognition and a wider audience for the wealth of cultural and ethnic diversity that constitutes American writing. BCF has always employed the term "multicultural" not as a description of an aspect of American literature, but as a definition of all American literature. BCF believes that the ingredients of America’s so-called "melting pot" are not only distinct, but integral to the unique constitution of American Culture-the whole comprises the parts.

In 1978, the Board of Directors of BCF (authors, editors, and publishers representing the multicultural diversity of American Literature) decided that one of its programs should be a book award that would, for the first time, respect and honor excellence in American literature without restriction or bias with regard to race, sex, creed, cultural origin, size of press or ad budget, or even genre. There would be no requirements, restrictions, limitations, or second places. There would be no categories (i.e., no "best" novel or only one "best" of anything). The winners would not be selected by any set quota for diversity (nor would "mainstream white anglo male" authors be excluded), because diversity happens naturally. Finally, there would be no losers, only winners. The only criteria would be outstanding contribution to American literature in the opinion of the judges.

All winners are accorded equal standing. Their publishers are also to be honored for both their commitment to quality and their willingness to take the risks that accompany publishing outstanding books and authors that may not prove "cost-effective" in the short run. There are special Award designations (such as Lifetime Achievement) for contributions to American literature beyond a recently published book. The American Book Awards Program is not associated with any industry group or trade organization. The American Book Awards offer no cash prize nor do they require any financial commitments from the authors or their publishers. The Award winners are nominated and selected by a panel of writers, editors, and publishers who also represent the diversity of American literary culture.

Submission Procedure: There are no application forms, fees, or any other restrictions for submissions, nominations, or recommendations to the panel. The book is what matters, not the procedure. The only requirement is that two copies of the book must be mailed to the Before Columbus Foundation by December 31st for consideration for the following year’s Awards. Anyone may make a submission (it does not have to be the publisher). All genres, editions, and formats are accepted. The overriding principle is that there shall be no exclusions. (Submissions cannot be returned and acknowledgement is by request only.)

For more information, call: (510) 268-9775

American Book Awards
Before Columbus Foundation
The Raymond House
655 - 13th Street, Suite 302
Oakland, CA 94612

Before Columbus Foundation Presents

the winners of the

American Book Awards 2002


Aaron A. Abeyta
Colcha (University Press of Colorado)

Susanne Antonetta
The Body Toxic: An Environmental Memoir (Counterpoint Press)

Rilla Askew
Fire in Beulah (Viking)

Tananarive Due
The Living Blood (Pocket Books/Washington Square Press)

Gloria Frym
Homeless at Home (Creative Arts Book Company)

Dana Gioia
Interrogations at Noon (Graywolf Press)

LeAnne Howe
Shell Shaker (Aunt Lute Books)

Alex Kuo
Lipstick and Other Stories (Asia 2000)

Michael N. Nagler
Is There No Other Way? The Search for a Nonviolent Future (Berkeley Hills Books)

Donald Phelps
Reading the Funnies (Fantagraphics)

Al Young
The Sound of Dreams Remembered: Poems 1990-2000 (Creative Arts Book Company)

Children’s Book Award:

Jessel Miller
Angels in the Vineyards (Jessel Gallery)

Lifetime Achievement Award:

Lerone Bennett, Jr.

Jack Hirschman

Previous Winners