Martín Palomo ’19, a history and peace & conflict studies major from Dallas, Tex., was honored with the 2018 A.E. Newton Book Award for curating “Steal this Collection! A Collection of Radical History and Activism.”
The collection includes 20 books that are meant to inspire people to question the status quo and challenge their traditional perceptions of authority and obedience. Each book in the collection is intended to invoke discomfort in readers, and challenge them to speak out against injustice and engage in activism to promote positive change.
Last month, McCabe Library hosted an event to honor Palomo’s collection. Roberto Vargas, research librarian for humanities and interdisciplinary studies, describes how Palomo’s ability to engage with discomfort in a variety of texts, with the goal of promoting social change, merited the award.
“It was this call to interact with the text—which makes us uncomfortable in order to promote profound change through creative action—that impressed the judges of the competition,” Vargas says.
Palomo says his focus on texts seen as crude or offensive stemmed from being told he wasn’t allowed to read the anti-war novel Slaughterhouse-Five in middle school; the unfair censorship made him realize the power behind challenging authority.
“From there, I just started collecting more books that I thought had a thread of power and authority … not just to have power and authority for the sake of it, but more for the spirit of justice," he says.
Palomo dedicated his collection to social justice groups at Swarthmore, describing how activism on campus exemplifies the spirit of his collection.
“I feel like sometimes we forget that people are actively challenging things for the better, not just for the sake of frustration, but out of necessity,” Palomo said.
To be considered for the Newton Book Award, Swarthmore students curate a collection of 20 books and write an essay describing their inspiration for their collection. They then construct an annotated bibliography detailing how each book connects to the collection’s theme. The winning students receive a cash prize and the opportunity to give a talk describing their curation process. The award is named for Philadelphia book collector A.E. Newton and has been awarded by the College since the 1930s.