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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Meet Our 2014 Winners

Anthony MarraThe Cleveland Foundation today announced the winners of its 79th annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. The 2014 recipients of the only national juried prize for literature that confronts racism and examines diversity are: Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, fiction Adrian Matejka, The Big Smoke, poetry Ari Shavit, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, nonfiction Sir Wilson Harris, Lifetime Achievement George Lamming, Lifetime Achievement “The 2014 Anisfield-Wolf winners are exemplars who broaden our vision of race and diversity,” said Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who chairs the jury. “This year, there is exceptional writing about the moral complexity of Israel, a transporting first novel set in war-torn Chechnya and a collection of poems on the... Read More →

Simon Schama’s “The Story Of The Jews” Premieres On PBS

Historian Simon Schama is careful not to call his new PBS series the "definitive" look at Jewish history, but by others' estimation, it is close. The Columbia University professor and Anisfield-Wolf juror leads viewers through more than 3,000 years of Jewish history in the five-hour documentary, "The Story of the Jews." For Schama, who is Jewish, the subject matter is not only personal, but pertinent. Condensing thousands of years of Jewish history was no easy feat, but Schama went to great lengths to show the beauty and resilience of Jewish culture. "It's not just a history of death and smoke and disaster," Schama says.  The documentary is based on Schama's newly released book of the same name. Volume one, "The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words 1000 BC-1492 AD" hit bookshelves... Read More →

Zadie Smith And Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Talk Race, Romance Novels And Beyonce At The Schomburg Center

Novelists Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – both Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners -- displayed a warm, comfortable familiarity on stage for their recent appearance at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. Fresh off Adichie's National Book Critics Circle win for “Americanah,” her novel about “love, race and hair,” the conversation between the two literary lionesses veered from the amusing to the insightful. Watch the duo discuss Adichie's fascination with race and class, the absurdity of romance novels, and Beyonce. Read More →

Jesmyn Ward Stresses Importance Of Telling Stories That Matter During Recent Visit To Cleveland

On a freezing, overcast March day, the writer Jesmyn Ward made her first foray to Cleveland.  She barely smiled as she stood behind a lectern in brown leather boots, red corduroy pants and a gray sweater set. Yet several in her audience at Cleveland Public Library murmured that the piercing, prepared remarks Ward read should be published immediately. Others were visibly moved and brimming with questions. Ward, 36, who won a National Book Award for her second novel, “Salvage the Bones,” spent the morning with Cleveland students from Glenville High School and the afternoon exploring the question of who is allowed to speak: “We all feel inadequate when faced with a blank page, an empty canvas or a silent instrument.  We must battle self-doubt or negative introspection with every... Read More →

“Alice Walker: Beauty In Truth” Premieres At Cleveland International Film Festival

For the first time, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards will sponsor a movie at the Cleveland International Film Festival: the documentary, "Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth." It will screen three times this month. Directed by long-time Alice Walker collaborator Pratibha Parmar, the film weaves interviews, readings and archival footage to explore the themes of Walker's literary work and advocacy. At age 70, Walker is best known for writing The Color Purple, 1982's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. It generated enormous controversy, and an influential film, which the documentary explores. Also central is Walker’s lifelong activism – stretching from voter registration drives in the 1960s to championing women's rights in the present-day. Collaborators and critics and Walker herself speak to the... Read More →

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Wins National Book Critics Award For “Americanah”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Americanah" took the top prize for fiction at the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Awards .  Karen Long, Anisfield-Wolf manager and judge for the NBCC, praised Adichie's latest: “Americanah”—it should be stressed—doesn’t reprimand. The writing glints; minor characters flair and spark."  In a recent HuffPost Live interview, Adichie asserted that "Americanah" was the book she wanted to write for her own personal satisfaction:  "I felt almost liberated," she remarked. "This is the novel where I'm completely having fun and I'm free. I'm not burdened by a sense of duty of responsibility. I was just having fun. With Half of a Yellow Sun, I felt this weight of responsibility. I knew many people would read the novel not as fiction, but as... Read More →

Writing Across Race Can Be Treacherous

Occasionally, a white writer will turn to Mat Johnson, the novelist who created the much-praised “Pym” and “Hunting in Harlem,” with a manuscript and a plea to help avoid a racial blunder. “My colleagues will say, ‘I have a black character, a maid, and I don’t want her to talk like a Harvard professor, but I don’t want her to sound like Stepin Fetchit either,’ ” Johnson told a packed audience in Seattle. “I’m both sympathetic and put off by these requests.” Johnson, who runs the creative writing program at the University of Houston, described this predicament at the annual convention of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Randa Jarrar, the author of the novel “A Map of Home,” shared a similar experience: “I just got an email two days ago from... Read More →

Beneath The Pain: Andrew Solomon Interviews Peter Lanza, Father Of Sandy Hook Shooter Adam Lanza

Andrew Solomon dedicated a chapter of his Anisfield-Wolf winning Far from the Tree on families whose children have committed serious crimes. He interviewed parents of gang leaders, killers and sex offenders, examining the place of the family during and after the child’s stint in prison. In the only interview published with the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the two shooters in 1999's Columbine massacre, Solomon showed the complexity of their lives: "I know it would have been better for the world if Dylan had never been born,” Sue Klebold says of her son. “But I believe it would not have been better for me." Because of this book, Peter Lanza reached out to Solomon to tell his side.  Lanza is the father of Adam Lanza, the killer of 26 elementary school children, his mother and... Read More →

James McBride Delivers Soul-Stirring Renditions Of Gospel Favorites During “Good Lord Bird” Tour

Few writers have made the kind of spectacular, multimedia splash onto the literary scene the way James McBride has. McBride, 56, first attracted attention in 1996, for his memoir, The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother. It sat atop the New York Times bestsellers list for two years, selling more than two million copies and winning an Anisfield-Wolf award for nonfiction. His first novel, 2002's The Miracle of St. Anna, enjoyed a movie adaptation from director Spike Lee, for which McBride adapted the screenplay. But Song Yet Sung received a quieter reception in 2008. "Only eight people read it, and I have 11 brothers and sisters so that's saying something," he quipped at his recent appearance at the Hudson Library & Historical Society in Ohio. It's safe to say... Read More →

VIDEO: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Talks Feminism, Fashion, And Politics

Fresh off a feature on Beyonce's secret album, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie stopped by HuffPost Live to talk about how her latest work, Americanah, fits in her literary career and how she found comfort in breaking the rules.    Watch as Adichie, a 2007 Anisfield-Wolf award winner, discusses embracing her fashion sense as a "serious writer," the importance of race and class in feminism, and more.  Read More →
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