Youth Literature: Deborah Wiles Deborah Wiles, from Tucker, Georgia, is the winner in Youth Literature for Kent State, written for students ages 12-18. She has the distinction of being nominated by MIAL for another book also published in 2020, Night Walk to the Sea. Born in Mobile, Alabama, to a military family stationed in several places around the U.S., Wiles spent every summer with kin in Louin, Mississippi, and considers it her home base. She attended Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi, and later received an MFA from Vermont College.
She is the author of several highly acclaimed books, two of which were National Book Award finalists. She wrote a pioneer documentary trilogy about the 1960s, Countdown 1962, Revolution 1964, and Anthem 1969. Among other honors, she was an NAACP Book Award finalist, an E.B. White award winner, a Golden Kite Award winner, and a Jane Addams Peace Award Finalist.
Kent State is a free-verse treatment of the four unarmed college students who were killed by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970, for protesting the Vietnam War. When Wiles traveled to Kent State for a commemorative weekend “to honor the fallen and try to make sense of what happened,” she was shaken into writing about it. The story is told through points of view of the white students, black students, a guardsman, and a town resident. In an extensive author’s note and with students in mind, Wiles shows her process of research through procuring information from interviews, archives, online sites, videos, oral histories, and by listening to the music relevant to the times. Her book provides extensive resources for student research.