Encouraging Young Collectors of Color

Courtesy of the David Ruggles Prize

The winners of the 2022 David Ruggles Prize. Pictured left to right: Ariana Valderrama, Melanie Shi, Dr. Jacinta Saffold.

Today the winners of the inaugural David Ruggles Prize, a new national book collecting prize established to support and encourage young collectors of color, have been announced.

Ariana Valderrama won first prize, which comes with a $1,000 cash award. Valderrama was noted for her Toni Morrison collection — not Morrison firsts, but a wider collection of the “overlooked corpus of books Morrison edited during her time in publishing, as well as those she blurbed,” according to a press announcement. “A really excellent point of view to be taking,” said one of the judges, “requiring her to do research, requiring her to look beyond just the author’s name.”

Melanie Shi was awarded the second place prize of $500. Shi focuses on Chinese books, particularly Western and European attitudes toward China and communism during the Cold War. We interviewed her earlier this year in our Bright Young Collectors series. One of the judges called her expansive collection a “scholarly application,” and another recognized Shi’s “really solid focus on what she’s looking for and why.”

Dr. Jacinta Saffold took third place, receiving $250. Her collection explores African American literature, Street Lit, and Hip Hop. Saffold is on faculty at the University of New Orleans, and her collection is very much a working one, providing primary sources for her forthcoming book, Books & Beats: The Cultural Kinship of Street Lit and Hip Hop, and complementing a larger project: a digital archive of the bestseller lists from Essence Magazine, 1994-2010. She approaches her collection with “a very clear vision,” said the judges, and through it “she’s adding to scholarship, she’s sharing the scholarship.”

The judges for this year’s award were:

  • Islam Aly, Cairo-based book artist, papermaker, and lecturer
  • Lauren Burke, Chicago-based writer and host of the podcast Bonnets at Dawn
  • Angelina Coronado, PhD student at Columbia University studying migratory narratives in European literature
  • Sara Powell, Assistant Curator of Early Books and Manuscript’s at Harvard’s Houghton Library
  • Bridgett Kathryn Pride, Interim Associate Librarian for Public Services at the Houghton