Acceptance Speech by Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson's acceptance speech at the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award Ceremony on 2 May, 2023.

Many thanks to Her Royal Highness, Crown Princess Victoria, for joining us this evening. Not only is she a representative of the Royal family and the people of Sweden, but her work for the health and well-being of children, makes her a wonderful advocate for children’s literature, too.

My deepest thanks go to the great scholar, Boel Westin, as well as the rest of the jury of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for this honor. Thanks also to ALMA staff members Åsa Bergman, David Nygård & André Vifot Haas, who have made my journey to Sweden so magical. Heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Karin Nyman and her grandson Johan Palmberg for sharing their time and memories as they showed me around Astrid Lindgren’s apartment last week.

I am overwhelmed by the kindness and support I have received from the librarians of Sweden, as well as from the many journalists and readers I’ve met here. Special thanks go to my earlier Swedish publishers, Rabén & Sjögren, and Lavender Lit, and to my newest publisher, Natur & Kultur. Many thanks also to Cecilia Falk and Ann Magret Forsström for their skillful translations of my books into Swedish. Thanks also to every person in Sweden, as well as the Swedish government.

Last in this list, but first always in my heart and soul, is my family. It can be a real challenge to have an author as your spouse, or your parent. To my husband, Scot, to my daughters here tonight, Stephanie and Meredith, and to our children and many grandchildren back home, I pour out all my love.

But I don’t just have one family; I have two. When I was 16, I lived on a pig farm in Denmark with the most patient and delightful family you could ever meet. I am thrilled that my Danish brothers and their wives were able to join us here this evening. I am so grateful for my year with you. I'm so happy. But also grateful, because our relationship is getting deeper and stronger while we are all getting a little older and much grayer. Thank you Sørenssen family!

Astrid Lindgren and her books have long been my North Star. When I was a girl, Pippi Longstocking was my hero, because she was so strong, funny and had freckles just like me.

When I became an author, Astrid Lindgren’s defense of children’s right to read helped to define my path. She shaped the sense of responsibility I feel to my readers and their families.

Last week, the staff at the National Library of Sweden showed me some of the treasures from their Astrid Lindgren archive, which is on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Seeing her early drafts was a delight.

And then they brought out a small book that took my breath away. It was a Czech translation of The Brothers Lionheart, Astrid Lindgren’s story of love, sacrifice, and the struggle against authoritarian oppression. The government of what was then Czechoslovakia banned the book, so the version that I saw in the library was a samizdat. It had been translated, copied and shared underground, in secret, because the story’s message of freedom and love was so threatening to those in power.

Literature brings light to all of us in dark times.

Throughout history, across countries and cultures, people have used stories to prepare their children for the world that they will inherit. Stories open the doors to conversation and growth. Books strengthen us and help lay the foundations of morality and wisdom.

However, in the United States right now, we are experiencing a never-before-seen level of censorship in children’s literature. Among my books, they usually ban my novel Speak, and my memoir Shout, because both of them examine the topic of sexual violence.

Hundreds of my fellow authors in the US have had their books banned, too.

Extremist book banners don’t want children, or teens to read anything about sex, about gay or trans people, about black or brown people, or any religion other than Christianity.

Power-hungry, hate-filled extremists begin by banning books. History teaches us that next, they will ban people. And then the bloodshed begins.

The last three years of trying to fight back against this anti-democratic censorship exhausted and depressed me deeply.

But then, Boel Westin and the rest of the ALMA jury in Sweden called me on the phone and changed my life. The ALMA award has given me hope, and inspired me to dream again. Like Pippi Longstocking, I feel strong enough to do anything.

When Astrid Lindgren won the H.C. Andersen Award in 1958, she said “Everything great that ever happened in the world, happened first in somebody’s imagination.”

I hope that you will join me in this promise: that together, we will dream of the world that our children deserve.

A world that respects the rights and needs of children.

A world that honors and protects artistic freedom.

A world planted in love and nurtured with joy, so that all of our children can celebrate a world of peace.

First, we will dream of that world, then we’ll create it.

I stand before you, humbled, and overflowing with gratitude. Thank you for the incredible gift of being named the 2023 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award Laureate.

Thank you so much!