By Edward Nawotka
Russian publisher Irina Balakhonova of children’s publishing house Samokat has been awarded the Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish Award from Association of American Publishers.
Samokat garnered headlines least year when in the wake of Russia’s crackdown on gay rights, the publisher put out The Jester’s Cap, a novel by Russian émigré Daria Wilke which tells the story of a boy named Grisha, a 14-year who lives and works in a puppet theater with his family and an older gay friend, Sam, who ultimately leaves Russia for the more gay-friendly Netherlands. Not only did Samokat publish the book, but it did so — controversially — without the required warning label.
At the time, the author, Daria Wilke, told the Atlantic that many called her “brave,” noting, “brave” is also a word that could be used for bookstores carrying the book. “That was a surprise for me — I was afraid that bookstores would not take it. Usually they really are skeptical about taking on these difficult topics,” she told The Atlantic. “It was a pleasant surprise that most stores took it, though some put an ‘18+’ stamp, even though it’s a young adult novel.”
The Jeri Laber Award recognizes a book publisher outside the United States who has demonstrated courage in the face of restrictions on freedom of expression.