American author Laurie Halse Anderson is the winner of the 2023 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world’s largest children’s book prize, with the laureate receiving five million Swedish krona (more than $475,000 at present exchange rates). The award was announced live from Stockholm on March 7, and was broadcast simultaneously at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.
The ALMA jury’s citation states, “In her tightly written novels for young adults, Laurie Halse Anderson gives voice to the search for meaning, identity, and truth, both in the present and the past. Her darkly radiant realism reveals the vital role of time and memory in young people’s lives. Pain and anxiety, yearning and love, class and sex are investigated with stylistic precision and dispassionate wit. With tender intensity, Laurie Halse Anderson evokes moods and emotions and never shies from even the hardest things.”
Anderson made her children’s debut in 1996 with the picture book Ndito Runs (Holt), illustrated by Anita Van Der Merwe, about a Kenyan girl who races barefoot across the countryside. In 1999, she published her first YA novel, Speak (FSG), which is considered her breakthrough. Lauded for its powerful depiction of a rape survivor’s experience, the book has been translated into several languages. It was also adapted to film in 2004, and to a graphic novel, illustrated by Emily Carroll, in 2018. She is also the author of the 2019 memoir-in-verse Shout (Viking), in which she explores her own experience as a rape survivor, and learning to use her voice through literature.
Her other notable books depicting difficult subjects include Wintergirls (2009, Viking), which follows two girls as they struggle with eating disorders; and The Impossible Knife of Memory (2014, Viking), about a teen growing up under the shadow of her veteran father’s PTSD and alcoholism. Frequently the target of book banning, Anderson is also active in the fight against censorship.