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Monthly Archives: May 2016

An Overlooked Classic, “Nervous Conditions” Is A Book That Deserves A Second Life In The Mainstream

 by Gail Arnoff“I was not sorry when my brother died.”  So begins Tsi Tsi Dangarembga's semi-autobiographical novel Nervous Conditions, the story of Tambudzai, a teenage girl in (the former Rhodesia now Zimbabwe) who lives in two worlds: that of her parents, poor farmers who earn a meager living, and that of her aunt and uncle, whom the British colonists have chosen to receive an education in England and eventually to run the missionary school.  I fell in love with Tambu in the first few pages, and as I introduce her to more readers, I have discovered that they take her to their hearts as well. This includes participants in a Books@Work group, women who are thirty to sixty-five, and college students in a “Questions of Identity” seminar. Until I requested it, the Cleveland... Read More →

“I’m Not Racist” Documentary Features Millennial Views On Privilege, Power And Identity

Students don new identities while playing the board game, "American Dream"In one compelling segment from the 2014 documentary, "I'm Not Racist...Am I?" high school students huddle around a board game modeled loosely after the game "Life."This one is called "American Dream."To play, each student takes on an identity different from their own. So a young black student is now a middle-class white male; a white peer is now a lower-class Asian woman. As they move the pieces around the board, players hear instructions that begin to heavily favor a certain demographic: "All females lose one turn" follows "LGBT players move back one space," which follows “All welfare recipients move back five spaces.”  At the end, the young black student -- playing the game as a white male -- threw up his... Read More →

#WritersOnTrump Push Back On Presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee

Five winners of the Anisfield-Wolf Book award in fiction are standing up to publicly, “as a matter of conscience, oppose, unequivocally, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump for the Presidency of the United States.”They join Anisfield-Wolf juror Rita Dove and more than 400 writers who list eight reasons to decry Trump’s candidacy, published as an open letter on LitHub.The novelists include this year’s winner Mary Morris (The Jazz Palace), as well as Junot Diaz (The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao), Maxine Hong Kingston (The Woman Warrior), Nicole Krauss (Great House) and Anthony Marra (A Constellation of Vital Phenomena).“Because American history, despite periods of nativism and bigotry, has from the first been a grand experiment in bringing people of different backgrounds... Read More →

New “Bench By The Road” Marks Underground Railroad History In Cleveland’s University Circle

Thinking about gaps in our communal memory has long occupied Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison. In a 1989 interview, she said:“There is no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about, to summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves . . . There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby. There's no 300-foot tower, there's no small bench by the road. There is not even a tree scored, an initial that I can visit or you can visit in Charleston or Savannah or New York or Providence or better still on the banks of the Mississippi. And because such a place doesn't exist . . . the book had to.”The book is her novel Beloved, now firmly in the American canon and winner of a 1988 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. Morrison’s remarks... Read More →

Cleveland-Area Students Get A Dose Of Anisfield-Wolf Poetry, Craft Their Own Verses (Listen In!)

Students from two Cleveland-area schools and one community center gathered for a poetry slam this April.National Poetry Month, celebrated every April for the past 20 years, became a little less abstract for Cleveland students this spring. This year the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards embedded local graduate students in two Cleveland-area elementary schools and a community center for an eight-week poetry residency.  Ryan Lind, Ali McClain, Karly Milvet, and Amanda Stovicek -- all students in the NEOMFA creative writing consortium -- drew inspiration from the Anisfield-Wolf canon in crafting their lessons, sampling Toni Morrison, Lucille Clifton and Langston Hughes, as well as recent winners Adrian Matejka and Jericho Brown. Stovicek taught fourth and fifth-graders at Urban Community School... Read More →
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