author Traci Sorell's love for children's picture books that
feature Native people, history and culture inspired her to
write her first picture book, "We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga,"
which continues to win awards. COURTESY
PHILADELPHIA Three books and an audiobook written or co-authored
by Cherokee Nation citizen Traci Sorell won four American Library
Association awards at its mid-winter meeting held Jan. 2428
"We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga" won the 2020 American Indian Youth
Literature Award-Picture Book Honor; "At the Mountain's Base" won
the 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Award-Picture Book Honor;
"Indian No More" won the 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Award-Middle
School Book Winner; and the "We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga" audiobook
won the 2020 Odyssey Honor Award.
"I now write for a living," Sorell said. "Words shouldn't be hard
to come by. But I can't describe what I'm feeling except to say
I'm grateful. I haven't slept well since the calls came in about
recognition I'd receive at the American Library Association's mid-winter
"We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga" and "At the Mountain's Base" were
one of only two picture books selected. "We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga"
guides readers through the seasons in a contemporary Cherokee community,
incorporating Cherokee vocabulary and syllabary. Otsaliheliga expresses
gratitude and reminds readers to celebrate and reflect on life's
blessings and challenges. Illustrator Frané Lessac's artwork
enhances the book's celebration of culture, family, community and
books and an audiobook written or co-authored by Cherokee
Nation citizen Traci Sorell won four American Library Association
awards on Jan. 27 in Philadelphia. COURTESY
"At the Mountain's Base" focuses on a Cherokee family awaiting
the return of its kin serving as a pilot in World War II. Award-winning
comics graphic artist Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva) illustrated the
book. The book's afterword summarizes the achievements of Native
women in the armed forces and mentions the military career of Ola
Mildred Rexroat, a Lakota pilot who served in World War II and the
Charlene Willing McManis (Umpqua/Confederated Tribes of Grande
Ronde) wrote "Indian No More" with Sorell. Artist Marlena Myles
(Spirit Lake Dakota, Mohegan, Muscogee Creek) created the cover
The book is set in Oregon and southern California in the late 1950s
and follows the main character, Regina, and her family's exodus
from Umpqua tribal lands. The Umpqua are a part of the Confederate
Tribes of Grande Ronde in Oregon, a consortium of 27 tribes that
were relocated after the government terminated tribes with the intent
of assimilating Native people into mainstream society.
After meeting in 2016, Sorell said McManis contacted her to ask
her to finish the book. McManis feared she could not finish it because
she had cancer.
"It took the wind out of me, and I just couldn't really process
it," Sorell said. "If you knew Charlene she was one of most joyful,
wonderful people you could ever meet. She just radiates love and
joy and light all of the time."
Sorell thanked the American Indian Library Association's Youth
Literature Awards Committee for the awards.
"Both picture books received honor awards and the novel with my
dear friend Charlene won their middle school category. Having Native
librarians evaluating and honoring the work means the world to me,"
The audiobook for "We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga," was produced
by Live Oak Media. CN citizens Tonia Hogner-Weavil, Ryan Mackey,
Agalisiga "Choogie" Mackey and Lauren Hummingbird were part of the
cast that narrated that book.
Sorell said she is "honored" by the work of the Cherokee cast.
"It takes a village to produce a book, starting with my family
and friends who support this new path and fellow creatives who provide
feedback and support," she said. "Again, I appreciate the love and
support. I look forward to creating more books and encouraging more
people to share their stories."