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Monthly Archives: May 2014

REVIEW: “On Such A Full Sea” By Chang-Rae Lee

On Such a Full SeaChang-Rae LeeRiverhead, 352 pp., $27.95 Fourteen years after he won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for his haunting second novel, “A Gesture Life,” Chang-Rae Lee delivers another startling, unsettling work. Sentence by gorgeously meditative sentence, “On Such a Full Sea” carries its readers into a future of captivity, danger and diminished identities.  Lee will return to Cleveland Tuesday, March 24, 2015, as part of the Cuyahoga County Public Library's distinguished Writers Center Stage series. The title comes from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” The playwright gives the line to Brutus and it is worth quoting as fully as Lee does on a page before his novel starts:              We, at the height, are ready to decline.             There... Read More →

The Article On Race Every American Should Read

When writer Ta-Nehisi Coates visited Cleveland on a frigid February morning earlier this year, he was blunt when asked about America's trouble acknowledging race. "You can't have America without black people," he said. "Once you understand that, you understand that the black experience is at the core of what it means to be free." His latest treatise for The Atlantic magazine, "The Case for Reparations," throws down the gauntlet on one of the most contentious subjects our nation has grappled with: how to make amends for 250 years of U.S. slavery. "Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the enduring legacy of our country’s shameful history of treating black people as sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans than the wealth gap," he writes. "Reparations would seek to close this... Read More →

Inspiration On The Page: Norman A. Sugarman Award Honors Outstanding Children’s Literature

A standard picture book contains 36 unnumbered pages. “Monsieur Marceau” follows the pattern, but manages a wondrous, supple depiction of the legendary mime Marcel Marceau. Thanks to the lyrical writing of author Leda Schubert and the evocative paintings of illustrator Gérard DuBois, “Monsieur Marceau” has won the Norman A. Sugarman Children’s Biography Award, a biennial prize conferred by the Cleveland Public Library. During a ceremony in late May, two Sugarman honor books were recognized along with “Monsieur Marceau”: “Face Book,” by Chuck Close, and “Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows and Embraced Autism Changed the World,” by Sy Montgomery. Schubert’s book dwells on Marceau’s art but also touches upon his heroism. She notes that during the Nazi... Read More →

VIDEO: Walter Mosley Explains His Writing Regimen, Career Struggles, And Why “There No Such Thing As White People”

Writer and radio host Michael Eric Dyson posed a simple question to Walter Mosley midway through their Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture forum:"Do black people have the freedom to be individuals in America?"  Mosley, 62, paused to acknowledge the gravity of the question. "I would not give up being black in America," he responded. "We are America. We got the culture, we got the music, we got the art -- and we don't really know it."  Mosley, best known for his "Easy Rawlins" detective series, now 10 books deep, has enjoyed a successful and sustained career.  He was born in California to a Jewish mother and a black father (the pair was denied a marriage license in 1951.)  Their only child, who has lived in New York City since 1981, identifies with both sides of his... Read More →

Henry Louis Gates Jr. Talks Education, Fundraising And Career Highlights At African-American Philanthropy Summit

Photo credit: Richard Durrah Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. spent a sunny April Saturday in Cleveland speaking frankly about money and race and aspiration. He brought a relaxed manner to a charged topic as keynote speaker before 350 participants in the biennial African American Philanthropic Summit, hosted by the Cleveland Foundation. “Black people have a long tradition of philanthropy,” said the long-time jury chair of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. “We just don’t know that. It is called the collection plate. We’ve been ponying up pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters for ages and ages. The building fund – our building always looked the same. I think it was the preacher building a Cadillac.” A laughter of recognition rolled through the conference center at Corporate College... Read More →

REVIEW: “The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky and Death” By Colson Whitehead

The Noble HustleColson WhiteheadDoubleday, 234 pp., $24.95 Colson Whitehead will be 45 this year, and his latest book invites readers along on a midlife road trip, “The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky and Death.” It’s a jaunty, discursive ride from a man whose first novel triumphantly, improbably featured elevator inspectors (“The Intuitionists”) and his second (“John Henry Days”) snagged an Anisfield-Wolf award in 2002. The new book is nonfiction, the outgrowth of a Grantland assignment. An editor staked Whitehead in the 2011 World Series of Poker after learning that the virtuoso writer enjoyed a regular poker game in Brooklyn. The online magazine, part of the ESPN empire, paid Whitehead’s entry fee of almost $10,000 and assured him that he could keep any winnings... Read More →

As Search For Nigeria School Girls Continues, Wole Soyinka’s Urging To Fight For Education Remains Poignant

Last September, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka spoke passionately about the global “contest between barbarism and enlightenment” around educating  children.  His words sound prophetic now in the wake of the April kidnapping of Nigerian school girls in the northeast of his own beloved country. “To go to school – to handle a book – becomes a life and death event,” Soyinka said in his acceptance remarks at the 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Book awards ceremony. “Right now, in northern Nigeria, there are school children who have been waylaid, their hands tied behind their back, their throats slit, for daring to go to school.”  For some five years, a militant Islamic movement in northern Nigeria has terrorized families trying to educate their children, particularly their... Read More →

Will British Period Piece “Belle” Resonate With Moviegoers?

When screenwriter Misan Sagay visited the storied Scone Palace in Scotland, an 18th century painting of a pair of aristocratic women -- one a woman of color, the other white -- caught her eye. Despite the antiquity of the painting, the women were positioned and clothed in equal fashions -- an arrangement that intrigued the screenwriter. It started her hunt -- years combing through archives -- to piece together the history of those two women. Her research informed the screenplay for "Belle," the film based on the darker-skinned woman in the portrait, opening in theaters today. British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw portrays the title character, Dido Elizabeth Belle, born the biracial daughter of an Navy Admiral and African woman in 1761. Sent to live with her aristocratic uncle, Dido straddles... Read More →

New Poetry Anthology Moves Grown Men To Tears — And That Is Precisely The Point

Anthologies are tricky – and a new one called “Poems That Make Grown Men Cry” might seem like a gimmick. But readers who venture here will find that London editors Anthony and Ben Holden, a father and son, have come up with an engaging conversation-starter and a new angle on some marvelous work. They asked 100 men to write a brief introduction to a poem that choked them up. The “vast majority are public figures not prone to tears,” writes Anthony Holden, “as is supposedly the manly way, but here prepared to admit to caving in when ambushed by great art.” One, Simon Schama, is the Anisfield-Wolf juror and historian. Two are recent Anisfield-Wolf winners: Mohsin Hamid and Andrew Solomon. Poet Terrance Hayes picks former juror and Anisfield-Wolf recipient Gwendolyn Brooks for... Read More →
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