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Local author becomes finalist in state book awards

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By Kirsten Laskey

The whole state seemed to have learned a lesson from local author Nancy Bartlit’s “Silent Voices of World War II: When the Sons of the Land of Enchantment Met Sons of the Land of the Rising Sun,” and its new knowledge revealed the book should a finalist for the New Mexico Book Awards.Sunstone Press in Santa Fe, which published the book in April 2005, nominated the book for Best New Mexico History Book.The winners were announced during a banquet Nov. 9 in Albuquerque. Although the Bartlit’s book did not win, Robert Power’s book, “Peopling of Bandelier,” earned the award; she said she is still proud to be recognized as a finalist.“I’m very honored that it was a finalist,” Bartlit said. “It means ee that my peers thought very highly of the book.”Ruth Sherman, a member and docent of the Los Alamos Historical Society, is one fan of the book.“I thought it was outstanding because what she has done is interview people from various segments of the population at the time of World War II ee (she had) taken each segment and tied them together,” she said.This, Sherman said, is very unique.“Silent Voices” also earned recognition by becoming a textbook used in several high schools, including Los Alamos High School.The book, which Bartlit co-authored with Everett Rogers, a professor at the University of New Mexico, describes the interconnections between the New Mexico National Guardsmen resisting Japanese attacks in the Philippines, the Navajo code talkers, the scientists working to develop the atomic bomb and the Japanese American males imprisoned in an internment camp in Santa Fe.Barbe Awalt, co-founder of the New Mexico Book Co-op, which sponsors the New Mexico Book Awards, said this is the first year the award program had been held.They received 350 entries from all over the country, she said. The entries were sent to judges across the state who evaluated “everything about the book,” Awalt said. Judges, who included everyone from librarians to teachers, looked at the book cover, the binding, the writing, how it was printed and other qualities.Their evaluations were returned and the winners were selected. There were 33 categories to enter.Awalt explained the state was interested in operating a book award program because all the states around New Mexico had award programs of their own.Until this year, she said, New Mexico only had an award program for children’s books. “We wanted to honor books about New Mexico, published in New Mexico and written by New Mexico authors,” Awalt said. “In other words, we’re saying New Mexico has good books.”The awards program will be an annual event. Honorees for 2008 will be announced Jan. 25.Although Bartlit is busy volunteering with the historical society, Art in Public Places and other local organization, she hopes to participate in the New Mexico Book Awards again.Additionally, she continues to write about New Mexico’s history. She is currently working on a book with Richard Melzere, a history professor at the University of New Mexico. The book is about the internment camp in Santa Fe.History has always been of interest to Bartlit. She majored in history at Smith College in Massachusetts. Additionally, she taught and traveled to Japan.Telling stories that aren’t widely known and the revealing the interconnections between the stories is exciting to Bartlit.“The study of history is like solving a mystery,” she said.World War II is also a big interest to her. “What fascinates me is that more than 60 years after the war, it is still impacting international relations,” she said. “I’m a historian at heart. All my life I’ve been working toward this point of telling stories of World War II.” Bartlit’s book is available for sale at the Los Alamos Historical Museum shop and Otowi Station Bookstore and Science Museum.