Announcing Lee & Low Books’ 2021 New Voices Award Winner and Honor

New York, NY—January 18, 2022—LEE & LOW BOOKS is proud to announce that Maleeha Malik of Baltimore, Maryland, is the winner of the company’s twenty-second annual New Voices Award. Her picture-book manuscript At Home in My Skin features a child with vitiligo—a skin disorder that causes depigmentation—who embraces their individuality by drawing connections between their skin’s ever-changing patterns and the designs in nature.

Maleeha Malik

Maleeha Malik is a second-grade teacher who is pursuing a master’s degree in children’s literature at Hollins University. Her manuscript was inspired by her experiences living with vitiligo and a solo camping trip she took where she found patterns in nature that mimicked those on her own skin. Malik hopes young readers, especially those with noticeable skin conditions, will read At Home in My Skin and know they belong in this world—that there is space for everyone to love and thrive in their unique skin. Malik will receive a prize of $2,000 and a publication contract.

LEE & LOW BOOKS is also excited to announce that Jessica Mehta from Hillsboro, Oregon, will receive the New Voices Award Honor for her picture-book manuscript One of Kokum’s Kids. Inspired by Mehta’s experience adopting her daughters, One of Kokum’s Kids explores the everyday life of an Indigenous/Native child in the foster care system and the meaningful friendships and bonds they build with others in their community.

Jessica Mehta

Jessica Mehta is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a multiple-award-winning interdisciplinary writer, artist, and storyteller. She wants readers to understand that every adoption story is unique. However, Indigenous/Native children in foster care and adoption must deal with some particular challenges, especially since these systems are inherently colonial ones. She hopes One of Kokum’s Kids will further the conversation about the disparities experienced by Indigenous/Native children in the foster care system. Mehta will receive a prize of $1000.

The New Voices Seal was redesigned in 2022 to commemorate our co-founder Tom Low who passed in 2020. Tom Low was a staunch supporter of new voices and conceived the idea of the New Voices Award as a way for Lee & Low Books to stay true to its roots of nurturing unpublished writers of color and Indigenous/Native writers.

Congratulations to Maleeha Malik and Jessica Mehta!

Download a copy of the press release here.

ABOUT THE AWARD: Established in 2000, the New Voices Award encourages writers of color to submit their work to Lee & Low Books, which takes pride in nurturing authors new to the world of children’s book publishing. Published past winners include It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw by Don Tate, winner of the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award Honor; Bird by Zetta Elliott, an ALA Notable Book; Juna’s Jar by Jane Bahk, a Spring 2015 Junior Library Guild selection; and Take A Picture of Me, James VanDerZee by Andrea Loney, an NAACP Image Award nominee. For more information, visit our New Voices Award page.

Authors of color who write for older readers are encouraged to learn about our New Visions Award for middle grade and young adult manuscripts as well.

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