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Monthly Archives: March 2013

“Less Than Human”: How One Professor Explores Deeper Meaning Behind Dehumanization

By Lisa Nielson, Anisfield-Wolf SAGES Fellow Lisa Nielson is the Anisfield-Wolf SAGES Fellow at Case Western Reserve University. She has a PhD in historical musicology, with a specialization in Women's Studes, and teaches seminars on the harem, slavery and courtesans. I was introduced to “Less than Human” last fall when I had the pleasure of hearing David Livingstone Smith speak at the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards ceremony and at Case Western Reserve University the next day. His presentation was riveting, and I felt myself vacillating between awe at the breadth of his work and shock at the horror of what humanity has done through dehumanization. Judging from the taut silence as the awards audience of 800 heard Smith speak, they had a similar reaction. Listeners occasionally... Read More →

Junot Diaz Promotes “Freedom University” On The Colbert Report

One of our most accomplished, "visible" authors has to be Junot Diaz, hands down. He is at ease on the campus of MIT (where he teaches English) as he is headlining a conference on race and culture. He is also a very vocal supporter for immigration reform and champions the rights of undocumented immigrants who are seeking a fair path to citizenship. (See more of our immigration coverage here.)  Recently Diaz was on the Colbert Report, going "toe-to-toe" with Stephen Colbert on opportunities for immigrants and giving viewers an overview of Freedom University, a volunteer organization in Georgia that provides post-secondary instruction to undocumented immigrants barred from attending five of Georgia's most competitive schools.   Diaz is on the board of advisors for Freedom University and... Read More →

Toni Morrison Speaks To Cadets At West Point After “Home” Finds Place In Their English Curriculum

Toni Morrison doesn't hold her tongue on anything she deems important for the masses to know. At 82, she has earned that right.  In speaking with freshman cadets at the United States Military Academy, Morrison expressed her views on the war in Iraq and shared her inspiration for her latest book, "Home." The novel, about a Korean war veteran named Frank Money, who is struggling with PTSD and the segregated south, is part of the English curriculum at West Point. Lt. Col. Scott Chancellor, director of the freshman English program, selected the book for their classes thanks to its relevant messages to troops today, particularly as it touched on race and trauma.  Col. Scott Krawczyk, the head of the academy’s English and philosophy programs, tied the book's themes into the larger... Read More →

Celebrated Nigerian Author Chinua Achebe Dies At 82

During my freshman year at Kent State University, I was a little wary when I saw one of the books listed on my syllabus in my English class: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. My tongue stumbled over his name and I sat there trying all the possible pronunciations until I figured it might be best to just ask the professor.  I grabbed the book from the university bookstore and went back to my dorm to read a few chapters. Instead, I finished the whole book that evening.  Set in Nigeria, highlighting the conflict between traditional Igbo culture and colonialism, Things Fall Apart hooked me in a way that few books have since. The story of Okonkwo and his quest to be noble and respected, unlike his father Unoka, deeply resonated with me and millions of other readers. Whenever I would... Read More →

Kwame Anthony Appiah Speaks On National Honor At Severance Hall Lecture

American philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah is not allowed into China. He mentioned this fact at the end of his well-attended March talk in Cleveland, noting he is unwelcome because of his support of Liu Xiaobo, a writer and political activist who won the Nobel peace prize in 2010. At the ceremony in Oslo, Liu was represented by an empty chair. Appiah, a Princeton University professor, won an Anisfield-Wolf prize in 1993 for his book, “In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture.” Today he is president of the PEN American Center, whose home page features a vibrant photo of Liu, with the statement “jailed for writing seven sentences in China” and an invitation to view his case. “Many, many more writers would be in prison today if we weren’t constantly popping... Read More →

Joyce Carol Oates’ Latest Novel, “The Accursed,” Has Fans Buzzing

  Cover photo courtesy HarperCollins Publishers Chances are, Joyce Carol Oates' latest work is unlike anything you've ever read before. "The Accursed" takes readers on a wild ride through Princeton, N.J., in the years 1905-1906, viewed through a host of characters who are all struggling with their own demons as the result of the Curse (always capitalized).   In the weeks leading up to the book's release, the Princeton University professor and Anisfield-Wolf jury member completed an interview with the Seattle Times in which she explored some of the themes in the book more in depth. Oates began writing the novel in the 80s and left it alone for more than 20 years while pursuing other projects. She came back to it a few years ago and emerged with a novel some are calling Oates... Read More →

Civil Rights Icon Andrew Young Jr. On 50th Anniversary of “Letter From Birmingham Jail”

Boston—U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young turns 81 this week. He was barely into his 30s when he traveled with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and fewer than eight other civil rights activists to confront the violent, insidious racism of Birmingham, Ala. Wearing a blue bow tie, a sweater vest, and a calm mien, Young sat down at Harvard University for “A Freedom Fighter Looks Back: A Conversation With Ambassador Andrew Young on the 50th Anniversary of King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail.” “Today, key provisions of the Voting Rights Act are under attack,” observed Young’s host, Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research and Anisfield-Wolf jury chair.  The afternoon began with a distilled tutorial on the legendary... Read More →

“Warmth Of Other Suns” Named The 2013 Selection For Chicago’s City-Wide Book Club

With so much negative news spilling out of Chicago each day, we're happy to see at least one bright spot among the tragedies. Isabel WIlkerson's 2010 work "The Warmth of Other Suns" was named the next selection of the Chicago Public Library's "One Book, One  Chicago" program, announced by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday.  Of the selection Emanuel said:  “Isabel Wilkerson’s book brings to life the stories of African Americans who left their homes in the South in search of a better life. These are the stories of people who helped create the Chicago we know today – and of people continuing to come to our city each day in hopes of finding their dream. Each of us has a story to tell about our family’s path to Chicago and how we all helped to make Chicago the most... Read More →

Harriet Tubman, American Hero

March 10th, 2013 was the 100th anniversary of the death of Harriet Tubman, a woman whose name is synonymous with bravery and freedom.  Growing up, I attended a small public school in East Cleveland, where each of the students was required to learn the following poem by Eloise Greenfield:    Harriet Tubman didn't take no stuff Wasn't scared of nothing neither Didn't come in this world to be no slave And wasn't going to stay one either   "Farewell!" she sang to her friends one night She was mighty sad to leave 'em But she ran away that dark, hot night Ran looking for her freedom She ran to the woods and she ran through the woods With the slave catchers right behind her And she kept on going till she got to the North Where those mean men couldn't find her   Nineteen... Read More →

Anisfield-Wolf Jury Chair Henry Louis Gates Jr. Has Portrait Unveiled At National Portrait Gallery

Source: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery We've long felt honored to have Henry Louis Gates, Jr., one of the nation's most preeminent African American scholars, as our jury chair. Having met him numerous times over the past few years, I'm always awed by his depth of knowledge and his ease in front of a crowd.  All of this makes him a wonderful human being and all the more deserving of his latest honor. Henry Louis Gates Jr is the one of the latest Americans to have his portrait displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. In a portrait commissioned by Harvard University, Gates is depicted with several influential works, those of W.E.B. DuBois, Wole Soyinka and Kwame Anthony Appiah.  We are very, very proud for his portrait to be included amongst some of the most... Read More →
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