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June 25, 2021
By PW Staff
'How to Fold a Taco' and 'L’Origine' were selected as the winners for the 2021 indie book awards

A joyful celebration of the taco and a novel based around a famed work of art were named winners of the 2021 Selfies Book Awards U.S. on June 24. The winners were announced in a virtual ceremony held during the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference. The mission of the awards, which were created by BookBrunch and launched in the U.K. in 2018, is to discover new talent and reward the best self-published titles each year. The awards are unique in that they focus not only on the strength of the writing, but on each title’s overall production value, cover design, and the author’s promotional materials. Hosting the event was Jo Henry, managing director of BookBrunch, and Carl Pritzkat, president of BookLife, which oversaw the awards in partnership with Publishers Weekly and BookBrunch. Tim Westover, winner of the 2020 U.S. Selfies inaugural book award for The Winter Sisters, provided opening remarks.

The 2021 U.S. Selfies book awards were co-sponsored by IngramSpark®, Ingram’s award-winning self-publishing platform; Combined Book Exhibit, which showcases published works at trade shows and expos around the world; Barnes & Noble Press, the Barnes & Noble platform that supports self-published authors and publishers; and Author Solutions, a leader in supported self-publishing.

How to Fold a Taco (Con Todo Press, ISBN 978-1-7337103-6-7) by Mexican-American TV personality and journalist Naibe Reynoso, won the grand prize in the children’s category, which was added to the prize awards this year. The picture book, written in English and Spanish, is illustrated by Ana Varela, whose art introduces a lively cast of human, animal, and mythical characters who demonstrate how to fold tortillas to make tacos. 

The judges for the U.S. Selfies children’s book category were Paige Allen, director of IngramSpark; Joshua Carlson, librarian and manager, youth services, at the White Plains Public Library; and Matia Madrona Query, BookLife editor. The judges selected How to Fold a Taco for its natural, read-aloud appeal, its polished and endearing illustrations, and its diverse characters. Allen wrote that, along with elements of science, language, culture, history and cuisine, the book ensures that readers “will head straight to kitchen or la cocina to indulge in a night of tacos and fun.”

Reynoso spoke to PW about the inspirations for the book, saying that “How to Fold a Taco was written to honor and celebrate my Latino heritage, but also to make kids and parents smile, as it is a colorful and imaginary rhyming adventure with dragons, magicians, dinosaurs and more. But to honor my culture, it was important to include my mom’s family taco recipe, and a brief history of the taco, which is now one of the most beloved dishes of America.” Reynoso also spoke about her publishing journey, the challenges of being an indie author, and how the Selfies help to support and affirm the work of self-published writers. “As an independently published author, I have to play multiple roles to get my book from idea to reality. Awards like the Selfies recognize authors’ efforts and validate their work, giving them the fuel to keep going,” Reynoso said.

The judges also named a runner-up for the children’s category: The Rumble Hunters by Courtney Dunlap, about a young boy’s night-time romp as he investigates an unusual noise in his family’s home.

In the adult category, the prize was presented to author Lilianne Milgrom for L’Origine (Little French Girl Press, ISBN 978-1-7348670-0-8), a novel that weaves historical events into a fictional narrative surrounding the controversial work of art, L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World), painted in 1866 by Gustave Courbet. Upon receiving the honor, Milgrom told PW that “L'Origine is the result of 10 years of research and writing, but what kept me going was my absolute and unwavering obsession with wanting to get the story out into the world! I read somewhere that you should write a book that you want to read; I believe L'Origine is that book for me.”

Judges for the adult category were Emily Thomas Meehan, chief creative officer and publisher at Sterling Publishing, a wholly owned subsidiary of Barnes & Noble; Robin Cutler, president of LMBPN Worldwide Publishing, CEO of, and creator and developer of IngramSpark; and Jo Henry. Cutler praised L’Origine, saying that “Milgrom’s thorough research, knowledge, and emotional attachment to the painting is enhanced by a sweeping fictional narrative that puts us in touch with major historical events and figures spanning 1866 to present day. On my next trip to Paris, I will be visiting the Musée d’Orsay to see the painting with newfound appreciation because of this book.”

The Boy and the Lake, a literary mystery by author Adam Pelzman, was selected as a runner-up for the adult category.

“Congratulations to the authors of these fine examples of self-published books,” said Cevin Bryerman, CEO and publisher of Publishers Weekly. “How to Fold a Taco and L’Origine are testaments to the wealth of talent that deserves wider recognition in the publishing world.”

The winning author and author/illustrator team each receive a $1,000 cash prize, promotional book displays valued at over $2,500 from Combined Book Exhibit (CBE) at major book fairs around the world, a feature in the CBE librarians’ newsletter reaching 30,000 librarians, and a $5,000 package of print and digital advertising in Publishers Weekly.