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[Books, general - Levine] 

Levine wins [LA] Times award for powerful 'Harmful to Minors'

Prizes awarded in nine categories, including fiction, biography, current interest, history and poetry

By J. Michael Kennedy, Times Staff Writer

Judith Levine, whose provocative book on children's sexuality created a firestorm of controversy even before it was published, was awarded a Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the current interest category Saturday night.

"Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex" presents the argument that children are often deprived of realistic advice about sex. She also makes a case that young Americans are entitled to safe, satisfying sex lives.

The award came as something of a surprise, given the topic and that one of the finalists was Samantha Power, who recently won the Pulitzer Prize for "A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide," which documents the United States' failure to confront global crimes against humanity.

Levine was rebuffed by numerous publishers before the University of Minnesota Press accepted the manuscript. One publisher called the book "radioactive." But the judges for the book prizes thought differently, calling the work "a cogent and passionate critique of the war against young people's sexuality. An uncompromising humanist and feminist, Judith Levine exposes the moral panic behind such policies as 'abstinence-only' sex education and insists on adults' responsibility to give affirmative support to children's and teenagers' sexual development."

The judges also commended the University of Minnesota Press for its courage in publishing the book in the face of attacks by outraged state legislators. Levine was presented the prize, a commendation and $1,000 at UCLA's Royce Hall as part of the 2003 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

The prizes reward excellence in nine categories to books published in 2002, including fiction, biography, current interest, history and poetry. Each category was judged by three notable writers from the genre.

(discussion of other prize winners snipped)

[Books, general - Levine]

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