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Elmer Adler Book Collecting Prize: Archive

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Winners of the 2020-2021 Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize

by Minjie Chen on 2021-08-31T15:50:00-04:00 | 0 Comments

Winners of the 2020-2021 (96th) Elmer Adler Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize were announced at the Friends of the Princeton University Library annual meeting held online on April 22, 2021. The Adler Prize was awarded to four student collectors this year for their essays that, in the opinion of the judges, have “shown the most thought and ingenuity in assembling a thematically coherent collection of books, manuscripts, or other material normally collected by libraries.”

First, Honorable Mention of the Adler Prize was awarded to Carlos Cortez, Class of 2024. Cortez's essay "How the West was Played: The Influence of the Final Frontier on Self-Identity and Personal Growth" shares his fascination with books about cowboys and the Wild West, his regular adventures to yard sales, and the intimate connection he found between those books and his identity as a Hispanic resident in California.

Cortez was awarded the book Building an American Empire: The Era of Territorial and Political Expansion by Paul Frymer, about how American westward expansion was governmentally engineered to promote the formation of a white settler nation.

Michaela Daniel    

The Third Prize went to Michaela Daniel, Class of 2021. Daniel's essay, "A Reflection of Us: A Black Girl’s Comic Book Collection," recounts her pursuit of comic books that feature non-white superheroes. Within these books she found female Black characters that spoke to her. She saw herself in nonwhite superheroes who share her self-awareness of being different, and her passion for promoting criminal justice. The essay traces Daniel's journey as a collector, from an initial chance encounter with a Black comic book character to dedicated searches for titles that highlight people of color and underrepresented topics.


(Photos courtesy of Michaela Daniel)

Michaela Daniel received a prize of $1,000, and a copy of Entitled: Discriminating Tastes and the Expansion of the Arts by Jennifer C. Lena, about how democratic values helped legitimate popular culture and cultivate a widened appreciation for more diverse culture.

Madeleine Marr                      

The Second Prize was awarded to Madeleine Marr, Class of 2021, for her essay "Great Men and a Women's Collective: Negotiating Political Drive Through a Book Collection." Marr described two apparently distinct collections of hers, one of the great men of American twentieth century politics, and the other of feminist theory and history. Her essay does a splendid job of integrating the two collections into a coherent account of her intellectual growth, establishing the connection of the two collections at a personal level--by representing her political aspirations and political ideals respectively.

Marr shared compelling stories about her collecting. She discovered autographed copies of prominent female writers’ works either in an inconspicuous section of the bookstore or from an unorganized pile lying on the floor of a store. The little attention received by the autographed copies of these authors served as a symbolic reminder of the underestimation of women's work. By adding these copies to her collection, Marr exerted feminist solidarity.

(Photos courtesy of Madeleine Marr)

Madeleine Marr received a prize of $1,500 and a copy of The Passion Projects: Modernist Women, Intimate Archives, Unfinished Lives by Melanie Micir, about biographical projects that modernist women writers undertook to resist the exclusion of their female friends, colleagues, lovers, and companions from literary history.

Avi Siegal 

The First Prize went to Avi Siegal, Class of 2022, for his essay “Immersed in Seforim.” Siegal wrote that “to live a life of Torah is to live immersed in a sea of books”--specifically the holy books known as seforim that explain how to live in accordance with Jewish law. The seforim of his collection are both his teachers and his friends, accompanying him on his physical travels and providing nourishment for his spiritual journey through life. Siegal's passionately specific description of his collecting and deft integration of his personal growth with his collecting goals impressed the judges, who found the essay balanced, focused, and compelling.

(Photos courtesy of Avi Siegal)

Siegal was awarded $2,000 and received Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law by Chaim N. Saiman, about how the rabbis of the Talmud transformed Jewish law into a way of thinking and talking about everything.

Each of the winners received a certificate from the Dean of the College.

Thanks go to the following Adler judging committee members for their intelligent and congenial debate!

Claire Jacobus, member of the Friends;
Jessica Terekhov, Student Friends member;
John Logan, Literature Bibliographer;
Julie Mellby, Graphic Arts Librarian;
Minjie Chen (chair), Metadata Librarian

Thanks go to the Princeton University Press for its generous donation of the book prizes. Lyndsey Claro, Chief of Staff at the University Press, kindly facilitated the process.

Thank all the participants of the essay contest and congratulations to all the winners!

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