'Everything Sad is Untrue (a true story)' wins 2021 Printz Award

For Immediate Release
Mon, 01/25/2021


Communications and Marketing Office

ALA Media Relations



CHICAGO – “Everything Sad is Untrue (a true story),” written by Daniel Nayeri and published by Arthur A. Levine, an imprint of Levine Querido, has won the 2021 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) today announced the winner during the ALA Midwinter Virtual, held, Jan. 22 - 26.

In an autobiographical novel, middle-schooler Daniel, formerly Khosrou, tells his unimpressed and at times cruel classmates about his experience as an Iranian refugee.

Modeling his storytelling on Scheherazade and not beholden to a western mode, Daniel Nayeri writes a patchwork of memory and anecdote.  He layers stories upon stories to create a complex, hilarious, and devastating understanding of memory, family, and perspective.

“In a unique refugee story Daniel Nayeri takes readers back in time and then brings them face to face with the equally tumultuous middle school years,” said Printz Award Committee Chair Ellen Spring.

Four Printz Honor Books also were named: 

“Apple (Skin to the Core)” written by Eric Gansworth, and published by Arthur A. Levine, an imprint of Levine Querido.

Gansworth—an enrolled member of the Onandaga Nation—revisits his childhood and teen years spent on a Tuscarora reservation in this ambitious and searing memoir.  Told in verse and accompanied by original art, Gansworth’s compelling coming of age story is a moving, illuminating exploration of otherness, intergenerational trauma, and resilience.   

“Dragon Hoops” created by Gene Luen Yang, color by Lark Pien, and published by First Second Books, an imprint of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group 

Gene Luen Yang never would have guessed that he would be working on a graphic novel about a basketball team, but he found inspiration in the men’s varsity team at Bishop O’Dowd High School.  The games are only a small portion of the story, though, as readers learn about the history of basketball as well as Yang’s personal journey.   

“Every Body Looking” written by Candice Iloh, and published by Dutton Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House.

In this novel in verse, Ada recounts her freshman year as a first-generation student attending a Historically Black College, while simultaneously taking the reader through her younger life.  Ada feels the pressure to make money from her major, but she ultimately realizes that dance is what connects, energizes, and sustains her.  

“We Are Not Free” written by Traci Chee, and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued the Civilian Exclusion Order, forcing the tight knit community of Japantown teens and their families to incarceration camps.  Author Traci Chee deftly manages  14 narratives all with a unique voice and experience.  The lives of these teens may have been forever changed, but as Chee writes, “We are not free.  But we are not alone.”

The award, first given in 2000, is named for the late Michael L. Printz, a Topeka, Kansas school librarian known for discovering and promoting quality books for young adults. The award is administered annually by YALSA and is sponsored by Booklist magazine.

Members of the 2021 Printz Award Committee are: Chair Ellen Spring, Oceanside High School, Rockland, Maine; Asuncion Cora, High Bridge Library, Bronx, New York; Dorothy Sarah Karlin, Woburn Public Library, Lexington, Massachusetts; Jessica Tackett MacDonald, Boston Public Library, East Boston, Massachusetts; Shelley Mastalerz, Seattle Public Library, Seattle; Elena McVicar, Johnson County Library, Overland Park, Kansas; Loren Spector, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles; Gregory Taylor, Hillside Junior High School, Boise, Idaho; and Marina J. Welmers, Marana USD, Tucson, Arizona.

The mission of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is to support library staff in alleviating the challenges teens face, and in putting all teens ‒ especially those with the greatest needs ‒ on the path to successful and fulfilling lives. For more information about YALSA or to access national guidelines and other resources go to www.ala.org/yalsa, or contact the YALSA office by phone, 800-545-2433, ext. 4390; or e-mail: yalsa@ala.org.

For more information on the Michael L. Printz Award and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit www.ala.org/yma.