For the eleventh consecutive year, Colorado Academy is participating in an exciting literary celebration known as the Neustadt Lit Festival. Held annually in Norman, Okla., on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, the event is sponsored by the renowned magazine World Literature Today, and features the awarding of two of literature’s most valued awards. The Neustadt International Prize for Literature, commonly known as “America’s Nobel,” is offered in rotation with the similarly prestigious NSK Prize for Children’s Literature.
The winner of the 2022 Neustadt Prize is Boubacar Boris Diop, a Senegalese author of numerous books, essays, and plays. For this prize, Diop was honored specifically for his best-known work, Murambi: The Book of Bones, which is a searing account of the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi. A champion of African cultural independence, Diop writes in French and Wolof, the indigenous language of Senegal.
So how does Colorado Academy connect to all of this?
This tradition of CA students attending the Neustadt Lit Fest dates back to 2012 and is made possible by a generous gift of CA parent Kathy Neustadt, mother of Tess Hankin ’16 and Josh Hankin. Since its inception, this program has allowed 28 different CA students the chance to visit the OU campus, explore the Oklahoma City area, and interact with talented writers from all over the globe.
Every year the CA English Department includes the work of the chosen Neustadt author in selected courses, and then sponsors a writing contest that in some way emulates the work of the author. The 17 entrants in this year’s contest were judged by multiple members of the department. Ultimately seven Colorado Academy students were selected to attend the ceremonies. They are Sophomores Mengistu Caleb, Eva Chandler, and Aziza Diallo; and Seniors Sofia Meltzer, Spencer Mills, Charlotte Sovka, and Jamie Wallace.
This year’s writing contest prompts gave students two options. Taking inspiration from Diop’s personal essay “My Father’s Library,” students could write about a meaningful place in their lives, or they could write about the challenges and/or the benefits of growing up in a bilingual household.
The winning pieces covered a range of places and experiences, including a grandfather’s house, a trip to Senegal, and traveling around the country in a Kia Soul.
The Neustadt Lit Fest runs from October 24-26, 2022.