At Junior Library Guild, we have a proven history of choosing award-winning titles. Nearly 95% of our selections go on to win industry awards, starred reviews, and other accolades. We’re excited about all the books that we offer at JLG, but it’s extra nice when our choices are widely celebrated—like when they win a Pulitzer Prize! Stay True by Hua Hsu was the first JLG selection to win a Pulitzer Prize, and we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to learn more about how our editorial staff deemed it a JLG Gold Standard Selection. So, what exactly goes into picking a Pulitzer Prize? Dan, a member of our editorial staff, shares his journey…
It all started with an email...
About eight months before publication, our editor Dan learned about the book, Stay True by Hua Hsu. Stay True seemed like a promising option for JLG readers: a memoir that intertwines college, friendship, art, and ideas. Dan first reached out to Hsu’s publisher, asking for the manuscript, and just like magic, an electronic copy made its way to our team just a day after asking for it! “We are so lucky in the ways that books find us; it begins with curiosity—just simply asking about it—and then it appears…” said Dan. With that kind of magic, our editor couldn’t wait to dig into this book!
What was “it” about this book?
What Dan loved immediately about Stay True was how straightforward—almost breezy—the voice or tone felt. As rigorous and precise as Hua Hsu’s observations are, they unfold in a very approachable, conversational way. The book begins with a lovely description of driving around with friends, listening to music, and it paints a wholly engaging picture that welcomes readers into the world of this memoir.
When Dan is reading for JLG, he is always asking himself:
-How would a high school reader react to the book?
-How am I reacting to the book?
In this case, there was very little friction between the two points above because this is a book that wears its erudition very lightly; the real charm of Hua Hsu’s style is how unpretentious it is—there is something for everyone to connect with.
What happens next?
After Dan was sure that this book was perfect to become a JLG Gold Standard Selection, he wrote a summary and evaluation of the book for the other editors to see; our Editorial Manager read the book as well. Next, the editors needed to decide what category Stay True would belong in and how it would fit into the subscription schedule. Our editorial team decided that Stay True seemed like a really good option for the adult non-fiction category, and so it was selected as a December 2022 book for Adult Crossover Nonfiction.
Did you expect a Pulitzer?
Stay True was recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Memoir or Autobiography. Did our editorial member expect such an award? Dan shared, “As for the Pulitzer, there’s really no way to game that out, and it’s a secondary consideration—what I’m really looking for is a book that high school readers will want to pull off a shelf, will enjoy reading and hopefully take something valuable from it.” As the book’s publication date approached, and the stellar reviews started rolling in, it was really gratifying to watch the book get the reaction it deserved. “It was a thrill to see it win, but not a huge surprise,” said our editorial staff member.
We are proud to have our first Pulitzer Prize winner among our collection! As most of you know, our collection is full of prize winners. We hope you will make this one part of yours. Click here to add Stay True to your JLG book box!