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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas Brings Immigration Debate To Cleveland

The audience was sparse for immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas. As it scattered into the seats of the Ohio Theatre in downtown Cleveland, some of the regulars for the Town Hall lecture series murmured about the empty rows. Near the front of the ornate auditorium, a retired couple from Mentor, Ohio, scanned the program. “Hope the immigration service doesn’t show up and nab him,” the man said. “Yeah,” his wife replied. “Is an undocumented immigrant the same as an illegal alien?” he asked her. “I don’t know,” she said, “it sounds that way.” This preamble made an unnervingly apt set-up for an evening with Vargas, a frank, funny Philippines-born journalist who calls himself “a walking uncomfortable conversation.” Vargas generated headlines in 2011 when... Read More →

VIDEO: Kwame Anthony Appiah Shares What Winning An Anisfield-Wolf Award Meant To Him

In what we hope will become an ongoing series, we'll be sitting down with Anisfield-Wolf winners to hear their thoughts on winning the Anisfield-Wolf award. What has it meant to their careers, to their personal lives, to their approach to their craft?  In our first installment, we spoke to Kwame Anthony Appiah after his recent talk with Johnnetta Cole at Oberlin College. He was, as we predicted, gracious and forthcoming. We look forward to share more interviews with you over the coming months! Read More →

VIDEO: Richard Blanco And Elizabeth Alexander Share Their Experience As Inaugural Poets

For the first time in history, two inaugural poets shared the same stage and spoke about what the experience meant for their lives. Earlier this month, 2009 Inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander (also an Anisfield-Wolf lifetime achievement winner in 2010) and 2013 Inaugural poet Richard Blanco spoke at Yale University, with Blanco making his first public appearance since inauguration.  "I felt a little less exposed with 800,000 people than I do right now," Blanco joked in front of the small Yale audience. The two spoke about feedback after delivering the poem, Blanco's writing style, and what role poetry can play in the political realm. The conversation between Alexander and Blanco begins at the 29:30 mark.   Did you enjoy Richard Blanco's poem "One Today"? The Library of Congress... Read More →

Are There Any Books You Wouldn’t Want Your Children To Read?

Toni Morrison's Pulitzer-prize winning novel, Beloved, took home the Anisfield-Wolf award for fiction in 1988. In it, a slave, unwilling to see her children grow up and live the same fate as their mother, killed one of her children rather than see them in bondage. Eighteen years later, the mother is visited by a young woman who she believes is the slain infant, returned.  However lauded the work may be, not everyone is a fan. Most recently, a Fairfax County parent has petitioned to ban the book based on the book's content, which she says gave her son nightmares after he read it for his senior-level English class. "I’m not some crazy book burner,” Laura Murphy said. “I have great respect and admiration for our Fairfax County educators. The school system is second to none. But I... Read More →

Happy Birthday, Toni Morrison!

In honor of Ms. Morrison's 82nd birthday, we're looking back at our archives for some of our favorite moments from the esteemed author over the past few years. Take a walk down memory lane with us:  "Beloved" is named one of the "88 Books That Shaped America" by the Library of Congress:  Toni Morrison won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her post-Civil War novel based on the true story of an escaped slave and the tragic consequences when a posse comes to reclaim her. The author won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993, and in 2006 The New York Times named "Beloved" "the best work of American fiction of the past 25 years." She wins the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom: In his personal remarks during the ceremony, President Obama said of Morrison's work, “I remember... Read More →

Watch Jose Antonio Vargas’ Emotional Senate Testimony

In 2011, in the midst of a distinguished career as a journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas revealed that he was living in the United States as an undocumented resident. It was a secret he felt he could keep no longer and against the advice of several immigration lawyers, he wrote a moving essay in The New York Times magazine on his life without permanent U.S. citizenship: It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of... Read More →

VIDEO: Junot Diaz Speaks On The Importance Of Libraries

As the U.S. economy continues to crawl toward recovery, more and more people find themselves at the library. Filled with resources, computers, books and programs, the local library is often one of the only places people can go to get their information needs met, and unlike most online sources, there are real live people there to offer assistance.  Writers tend to be very vocal champions for libraries, particularly these days as funding is cut while demand is highest. Earlier this year, during an author visit to his local library in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Junot Diaz spoke for a few minutes on the importance of libraries, particularly as it relates to his success as an author. "I can directly attribute who I am as a writer, an artist, as a thinker..from my early, early experiences in my... Read More →

What History Books Didn’t Teach You About Rosa Parks

Source: Biography.com Most children learn about Rosa Parks' contribution to the Civil Rights Movement thusly: She boarded a bus, refused to move to the back of the bus when a white passenger got on board, and was promptly arrested, kicking off the Montgomery bus boycott. Lasting roughly 13 months, the Montgomery bus boycott lead to an official Supreme Court ruling declaring segregation on public transportation unconstitutional.  While that did indeed happen, what is often overlooked is Rosa Parks' earlier involvement with the civil rights movement. She was a member of the Montgomery NAACP chapter and even served as secretary for NAACP President E.D. Nixon. In honor of what would have been her 100th birthday this year, the Huffington Post recently highlighted some lesser known facts... Read More →

EVENT: Kwame Anthony Appiah And Johnnetta Cole Speak On Identity And Humanity

Credit: John Seyfried After a rich discussion between philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah and museum director Johnnetta Cole, the final question in Oberlin's Finney Chapel was a zinger. Appiah, who won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1993 for his influential collection of essays "In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture," had been turning over questions of identity and art with Cole, an anthropologist who leads the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. The duo's last question came from Kelsey Scult, 20, an Oberlin African Studies major, who just completed a January internship at the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle. Looking at Cole, the white student  asked, "If I was up for a job at your museum against someone of African descent, I would think they... Read More →

Zadie Smith Shares New Short Story In The New Yorker

We're always delighted to read a new piece from 2006 winner Zadie Smith's mind, as she is one of our favorite authors in the modern age. It's kind of blasphemous for us to declare we have a favorite (after all, isn't it like saying, out loud, that you have a favorite child?) but it's true that Zadie Smith is at the top of our list. (Don't worry, our list is very wide at the top.)  Her newest piece is an easy read in the New Yorker, called "The Embassy of Cambodia." Here's a sneak peek: Who would expect the Embassy of Cambodia? Nobody. Nobody could have expected it, or be expecting it. It’s a surprise, to us all. The Embassy of Cambodia! Next door to the embassy is a health center. On the other side, a row of private residences, most of them belonging to wealthy Arabs (or so we, the... Read More →
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