Julie Chibbaro

National Jewish Book Award Winner Julie Chibbaro's speech at the 61st Annual National Jewish Book Award ceremony:

I’d like to talk about something that concerns us all.

Our world is completely infested with invisible beings. No, I’m not losing my mind, and no, we are not being taken over by alien species. I’m talking about germs. Germs are everywhere. According to Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist known as “Dr. Germ,” the handle on the gas pump is the everyday object most likely to transmit highly contagious germs. Everything we touch, the mailbox, the ATM, is covered with germs.

Some people say my novel Deadly is about a typhoid fever epidemic. Some people say it’s about New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. Some say it’s about Typhoid Mary, and how immigrants were discriminated against. Or how women didn’t have the freedoms they have now.

To me, Deadly is about Prudence Galewski, a Jewish girl living on the Lower East Side who is utterly obsessed with germs. This was 1906, a time when most people didn’t even know what germs were. In fact, they thought diseases were carried on clouds of filth they called miasmas. But Prudence, a sixteen-year-old girl with a scientific mind, knows better. She has a sense that invisible beings infest our world, and she wants to know how to fight them.

I want to thank the Jewish Book Council for choosing Deadly, a book that presents a Jewish girl who battles an unusual antagonist. I think this is a brave choice, and I am highly honored and grateful to all of you for this award.