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Monthly Archives: May 2013

REVIEW: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Soars With “Americanah”

Americanah Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Knopf, 477 pp., $26.95 Hair asserts itself on the first page of “Americanah,” a knowing, prickly and virtuosic novel from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She was 29 when she won an Anisfield-Wolf award in 2007 for “Half of a Yellow Sun”; she picked up a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant the following year. Her mother, a Nigerian university registrar, likes to say little Chimamanda started to read when she was 2. The writer herself thinks it was probably around age 4. “Americanah” wears its genius lightly, starting with a pleasurable and assured set-up chapter that puts its central character Ifemelu on a train from Princeton to Trenton, N.J. Her mission: to have her hair braided. After 13 years stateside, most recently on a fellowship to... Read More →

VIDEO: “Nollywood” Brings Adaptation of Adichie’s “Half of a Yellow Sun”

If you can't find the art you want, make it yourself. That was famously the mindset of Jay-Z, when the rapper started Roc-A-Fella Records in 1995, and that DIY approach animates "Nollywood," the Nigerian film industry. Approximately 1,000 Nigerian movies are produced each year, surpassing the 800 films churned out annually in the U.S. For innovators everywhere, digital innovations have lowered technological barriers and production costs. Without a formal distribution model, Nigerian film prospers—many movies are watched at home in a nation of few theaters. One of this year’s most anticipated projects is the adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel Half of a Yellow Sun, scheduled for release in November 2013. The book won an Anisfield-Wolf award for fiction in 2007... Read More →

VIDEO: Rita Dove’s 2013 Emory University Commencement Address

Pulitzer Prize-winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States, Rita Dove delivered the 2013 commencement address to the graduates of Emory University in Atlanta. The Anisfield-Wolf jury member spoke on the beauty of imagination and finding confidence as they journey into the unknown. Dove also received an honorary degree, with Emory President James Wagner praising her ability to "generously illuminate the world of beauty that formerly was hidden." Watch the video below and tell us: How did you respond to Dove's message? Just for fun—do you remember your commencement speaker or their message? Read More →

Rare Slave Cabin To Become Crown Jewel Of New African American History Museum

The cabin will be dismantled and reassembled at the Smithsonian. Where can one find Nat Turner’s Bible, Emmet Till’s coffin and Harriet Tubman’s shawl? Answer: the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture when it opens in late 2015. Additionally, one of the nation’s oldest remaining slave cabins will be joining these artifacts in Washington, D.C., according to the New York Times. The 320-square-foot cabin is being dismantled piece by piece, to be rebuilt inside the museum. It is one of two slave cabins in Edisto Island, S.C. They have stood on the Point of Pines plantation since the 1850s. Neither cabin has ever had electricity or heat, but continued to shelter inhabitants more than a century after slavery ended. The last known occupants moved... Read More →

“Geography Of Hate” Map Shows Where Most Hateful Tweeters Lurk

Students at Humboldt State University in northern California analyzed more than 11 months of Twitter data to locate the biggest pockets of hate speech in America.  For the "Geography of Hate" project, students manually sifted through more than 150,000 tweets containing hateful speech targeting sexuality, race, and disability. Student read each tweet to determine whether the slur was used in a positive, negative, or neutral manner. Sample keywords included "homo," "n*****," and "cripple."  To enhance accuracy of the map, researchers "normalized" the data to ensure that larger populations would not appear more racist simply because there are more people living there.  Researchers found that most of the slurs were not centralized to one particular region. A few terms were more... Read More →

New PBS Series Spans 500 Years Of African-American History

Anisfield-Wolf jury chair Henry Louise Gates Jr. has been busy the past few months, filming episodes of his new PBS series, "The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross." The six-part documentary will cover more than four centuries of African-American history, starting with the origins of slavery in Africa and moving to the present day.  Gates (left) interviewed Gen. Colin Powell and other influential African-Americans for his new PBS series Leading up to the series premiere, Gates has written a weekly column for TheRoot.com, "100 Amazing Facts About the Negro," in which he uncovers little-known tidbits about African-American history.  "Over the past 500 years, our ancestors in this country have been as stubborn, determined, idiosyncratic, individualistic, argumentative and complex as... Read More →

Easy Rawlins Returns In Walter Mosley’s Latest Thriller

Anisfield-Wolf winner Walter Mosley gave his readers a true cliff hanger in his last Easy Rawlins book, 2007's Blonde Faith. The writer left L.A. Detective Rawlins clinging to a cliff. Many assumed the reluctant cop was dead. In the past six years, Mosley has focused on his Leonid McGill detective series, and hinted in interviews that Rawlins' injuries were indeed fatal. But Little Green brings Rawlins back from the brink. The new novel is set in the late 1960s, when the detective reunites with old friends and navigates a changing place for black men in American society. (Mosley won his Anisfield-Wolf award in 1998 for “Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned,” the story of an ex-con in Watts.) Intrigued? Here are some tidbits to hold you over until you can get your hands on a... Read More →

Advocacy Organization Pushes For “Mother’s Day Our Way”

Reacting to the blah, monochromatic nature of typical of Mother's Day cards, Strong Families, an Alturas, California policy group, launched a line of digital Mother's Day cards cued into the changing demographics of America's families. These cards represent the families that are "beyond the picket fence": transgender, lesbian, low-income, immigrant, and incarcerated mothers are all featured. Much like Andrew Solomon's exploration of family diversity in his 2012 book Far From The Tree, these cards contain a more imaginative and inclusive depiction of familial love. Eveline Shen, executive director of Strong Families, said that the inspiration for this line of cards came from families like her own. “I’m raising my own daughters with my same-sex partner. When they go to the store, they... Read More →

New Film Recovers The Story Of Classical Music’s Forgotten Black Virtuoso

At age 2, Joshua Coyne was removed from his Kansas City home with broken legs and hips. His foster mother was responsible. He was placed in the care of Jane Coyne, a single woman with a love of classical music. During his recovery, Jane began to play a Puccini aria and to her surprise, Joshua was able to hum it back, note for note. From there, Jane began to help him hone his gift as a musical prodigy. Young Joshua began formal musical lessons at 4 and two years later, debuted as a paid violinist. He performed for then-Senator Barack Obama at a campaign rally at the tender age of 14. He put his studies at the Manhattan School of Music to use, composing the score of Janet Langhart Cohen's one-act play Anne and Emmett. Now, at 20, he is the face of the film adaptation of Rita Dove's... Read More →

VIDEO: Watch Andrew Solomon’s TEDMED Talk On Illness Versus Identity

Under the slogan “ideas worth spreading,” the annual TED conferences began in 1990, and have showcased a clutch of Anisfield-Wolf winners. The latest is Andrew Solomon, the 2013 winner for nonfiction, who took the stage in April at TEDMED, an annual program of medical innovators and thought leaders under the TED banner. His talk, "How Does An Illness Become An Identity?" drew from his book Far From The Tree, in which Solomon examines how families adapt – or not -- to their children's unique identities. He begins by noting the seismic shift of societal attitudes toward homosexuality within a generation. Being gay was called "a pathetic, second-rate substitute for reality" by Time magazine in 1966. Today, marriage equality is endorsed by the president of the United States. In “Far... Read More →
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