VLA Graphic Novel Diversity Award

The Diversity & Inclusion Forum of the Virginia Library Association is now reviewing nominations for the first annual VLA Graphic Novel Diversity Award. Any English language comic book or graphic novel, stand-alone or series story arc, published in the United States during the award period is eligible for nomination by the publisher. Diversity must be featured in the character(s) and storyline. Cash awards are given to the winner of the youth category (ages 6-17) & the winner of the adult category (ages 18-up). For more details about the awards, see below. Winners will be honored at the VLA Annual Conference.

Nominations now being accepted for the 2016 Graphic Novel Diversity Awards

2015 Graphic Novel Diversity Award Winners and Honor Books Announced (August 1, 2016)

VLA Graphic Novel Diversity Awards Criteria

Embracing Diversity

The Diversity & Inclusion Forum of the Virginia Library Association presents a new award to honor graphic novels and comic books that feature diversity in character or storyline. This award is open to any graphic novel in print, published during the award period.

Purpose: To promote graphic novels dealing with subjects or characters of diversity as quality literature that fits with the purpose of libraries to educate and promote reading to all reading levels.


  • Nomination should feature a diverse protagonist (casual or issue-based), a diverse character that impacts the story, or a diverse subject
  • Published in English by a United States “publisher” in the year that will be honored. Self-published nominations are accepted.
  • The nomination can be a stand-alone or a story arc. The last volume of a story arc must have been published in 2015.
  • Nomination must fall into one of these age categories: Youth (ages 6-17) or Adult (ages 18 and up)

Definition of diversity: Differences both visible and invisible that may separate an individual from the mainstream. The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. Diversity groups eligible for consideration for award may be based on color/race, nationality, disability whether mental or physical, feminism, ageism, religion, forced minority and LGBT/sexual orientation.

Definition of groups:

  • Color/Race/ Nationality – Main character would need to be part of a specific race, color or nationality. The character shows flaws and strengths in dealing with life as a member of this diversity.
  • Disability (visible and invisible) – Main character lives a normal life despite any limitations placed on him or her by the disability, whether mental or physical.
  • Feminism – Main character is a female who is surviving in a male dominated environment.
  • Ageism – Main character is being diminished by his or age. The story should reflect how the main character succumbs or overcomes the issue.
  • Religion – The main character is of a specific faith and may be persecuted because of religion/faith.
  • Forced Minority – The main character, although not normally a minority, through circumstances becomes a minority.
  • LGBT/Sexual Orientation/ sexual identity/Intersex – The main character is LGBT or identifies as sexually different and is coming to terms with this identity or dealing with discrimination.

Submissions for the Award should include 3 sets of the following:

  • A completed copy of the nomination form (one for each graphic novel being nominated).
  • One copy of the nominee (digital ARCs from NetGalley and Edelweiss are acceptable). If the nominee is a story arc, a copy of the whole arc must be submitted.
  • An introductory letter outlining why the material is deserving of this award.
  • Bios of the writer(s) and artist(s) of the nominee (up to 200 words per person).
  • jpegs of the writer(s) & author(s) and the cover of nominee.
  • Reviews of nominee (optional)

Visit our 2016 Graphic Novel Diversity Award Page to find forms for submission.

Any questions or comments, please send an email to Kevin Clement (kclement@infopeake.org), VLA's Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chair.


Is there a cash reward for the winning title? The winning title of each category will receive $500.00.

Who receives the cash award, the writer or the artist? Both or all of the creators to split among themselves.

Are nonfiction graphic novels eligible? Yes, entries can be fiction or nonfiction. There is no separate award for either.

Can anyone nominate a title for the award? Only publishers can submit a title, since they are responsible for submitting a package to the judging committee. If you feel strongly about a particular title, contact the publisher and let them know to submit the title for the award.

Does the author or artist have to be a United States citizen? No. The entry is being viewed on its merits. The nomination has to be written in English, has to be published in the U.S. If a Japanese Manga has been translated and published by an U.S. Publisher like DC Comics, it is eligible.

Are digital/web comics or graphic novels eligible for submission? Not currently. We may look at adding them later if we can resolve issues pertaining to publication dates and permanence.

Can a title be submitted for both age categories if the story is for all ages? No, the submitter must choose the age category that best suits the age of the prominent readership.

Our title focuses on diversity but does not fit any of the categories listed. Can we still nominate this title? Yes, the judges can determine if the title fits our broader definition of Diversity.

What will the cover images of the books be used for? The images will be used for our web page and other publicity to announce the winners and honor books.

I published my graphic novel as a downloadable only. Is it eligible? Since more and more self-publishers are making the decision to publish electronically, a downloadable graphic novel is eligible because it fits the criteria of being in print just not in the traditional sense. A downloadable differs from a web-based comic which is not eligible. To nominate a downloadable graphic novel, the publisher must add two more pieces of information: 1. proof that the downloadable was available for purchase in the year being honored; 2. libraries should be able to purchase the graphic novel for the electronic collection to circulate for their users. Most libraries have platforms which allow them to add self-published materials for checkout.
Can you explain the story arc? Some series break their story arcs between several volumes. In some cases, the reader must begin at the first volume and read to the end. Some volumes are not complete on their own. In the case of such a story arc, the whole arc must be submitted for review as long as the last volume was published in the year being honored. If a single volume can stand on its own without reading the whole series or arc, then this volume may be submitted on its own.