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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Veterans Flock To Kevin Powers’ Message Of Resiliency And Courage At CWRU Event

Kevin Powers didn’t flinch when the novelist Thrity Umrigar asked him a pointed question—had he considered incorporating substantial Iraqi characters in his much-honored novel “The Yellow Birds”? Power’s first book, an impressionist portrayal of combat and its consequences during the Iraq War, won an Anisfield-Wolf book prize this year for fiction. The National Book Award cited it as “an urgent, vital, beautiful novel that reminds us through its scrupulous honesty how rarely its anguished truths are told.” Umrigar, a professor of creative writing at Case Western Reserve University best known for her novels “The Space Between Us” and “The World We Found,” politely asked if Powers had thought to write a story that “would give the Iraq people agency?” Powers, 32... Read More →

“We Are All Political”: Poets Eugene Gloria & Kazim Ali Move The Crowd At MOCA

Eugene Gloria, this year's winner for poetry, reads from My Beloved Warlord at the 2013 awards ceremonyEugene Gloria says that he is fascinated by failure. He was quick to describe a particular poem or two as failed, and even his book, “My Favorite Warlord,” which won a 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, as a failure of his original idea to describe 1967.“I ran out of ideas for 1967, became bored,” Gloria told listeners at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland. “I ran out of gas, even though I was obsessed by it. The idea of failure is fascinating to me.”And yet, 1967 is a fulcrum in “My Favorite Warlord” – the year his family arrived in San Francisco from the Philippines, the year his future wife was born in Detroit, the year that Wole Soyinka is “being hauled to... Read More →

New Film, “American Promise,” Follows One Young Boy Through 13 Years Of School

The Brewster family is one of the subjects behind the new film, "American Promise." In at least one way, Joe Brewster sounds like most fathers. "I want my son to have the best education possible," he says in the opening scene of this clip from "American Promise," a short film that he and his wife Michelle Stephenson created to detail their son’s experiences at an elite Manhattan prep school. Idris Brewster, a 5-year-old African-American boy from Brooklyn, would be one of few minority students at the Dalton School, where 2013 tuition is more than $40,000 per year. His parents switched on the camera once he was admitted. The impulse grew into an attempt to capture his entire K-12 educational career on film. "We were embarking on this journey and having the camera around became a tool... Read More →

What’s In A Name? The Politics Behind Selecting Your Baby’s Name

Every afternoon, I wait in my children's grade school library with the other parents for pick-up. The principal reads off students' names over the loudspeaker, the signal that they are dismissed and can meet us in the library. Every day, without fail, the principal stumbles over Ayanna, my six-year-old daughter's name. She tries "Ah-yanna," "I-yanna," "E-yanna"—every pronunciation except the correct one. (It's "A-yahn-na," in case you're wondering.) As a black mother, I felt pressure—mostly from well-meaning relatives—to give my daughter a racially ambiguous name, one that was simple and easy to pronounce. Too many vowels or even one apostrophe meant trouble. I chose "Ayanna" after reading it in an Eric Jerome Dickey novel and loving that it means "beautiful flower" in Hebrew. My... Read More →

Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards Profiled In Belt Magazine’s Premiere Issue

Several years ago, Clevelander Anne Trubek attended the Anisfield-Wolf ceremony with an interest in hearing that year's crop of winners speak. As she left, she realized that she had been exposed to one of Cleveland's best kept cultural secrets. The writer-in-residence at Oberlin College, author and literary critic tucked her experience in her back pocket and went on to co-edit Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology. The idea was to share Cleveland stories that only Clevelanders could tell. After a huge response, Trubek's format morphed into another repository for Cleveland stories — Belt magazine. "I want Belt to tell some of the many amazing Cleveland stories that have not yet been told," she said. "The Anisfield-Wolf Awards is one example. I decided, sometime in May, that it... Read More →

Our 2013 Ceremony – As Told Through Tweets

[View the story "2013 Anisfield-Wolf Ceremony" on Storify] Read More →

Young Poet Graces Stage, Dazzles Crowd At 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Ceremony

Tonight, our spotlight shined on 10-year-old Gwyneth Wilde, a fifth-grader at the Falcon Academy of Creative Arts in Mogadore. Gwyneth will recite a poem she wrote last year in a workshop sponsored by Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center. This superb program, which brings poetry to communities throughout Northeast Ohio, is led by Nicole Robinson, who accompanied Gwyneth, along with Gwyneth’s parents, Laura and Brian Wilde. Take a minute to read her poem, “Flinging off the Curved Bow” and leave a comment for Gwyneth. We’ll make sure she sees it. Read More →

“Books Through Bars” Program Gives Inmates Hard-To-Access Reading Material

Three times a week, a group of strangers gathers in the basement of an independent New York City bookstore. Their purpose? The volunteers—sometimes including tourists—pack more than 200 books a month, shipping them to prisons in 41 states. They belong to a collective called Books Through Bars, which provides reading material to inmates at their request. Begun in Philadelphia roughly three decades ago, the collective sprouted chapters across the country, all operating on the same model: Books are donated to a partnering bookstore and volunteers match donations with requests. A supporter's trunk after a Books Through Bars packing session. Courtesy of the BTB Facebook page ABC No Rio, an artist's community center in Manhattan's Lower East Side, started the work in 1996. Victoria Law... Read More →

Must-See: Carrie Mae Weems At Cleveland Museum Of Art

"Mother with Children," from Boardwalk, Santa Monica, 1980–82 Photographer and artist Carrie Mae Weems paused in front of more than 600 rapt listeners in late August to take a question from a young woman about her series called “Ain’t Jokin,” excerpted in the current retrospective of her work at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Weems had shown her Cleveland audience a slide of a black woman looking into a mirror asking who is the fairest of them all. The cutting retort in all capital letters: “Snow White, you black bitch, and don’t you forget it!”  Weems then repeated aloud another question posed in the 1988 “Ain’t Jokin” series: “What are the three things you can’t give a black person? Answer: a black eye, a fat lip and a job.” Some in the audience gasped... Read More →
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