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Monthly Archives: March 2017

REVIEW: Karan Mahajan’s “The Association of Small Bombs”

by Charles Ellenbogen This Anisfield-Wolf award winner is absolutely stunning. From its riveting opening pages until the truth of its conclusion, Karan Mahajan takes us through a stunning story of small bombs, both the ones used by terrorists and the ones encountered in everyday life. I think what’s new here is that Mahajan, as the perfectly designed cover demonstrates, connects the bombs in ways we rarely get access to, let alone appreciate. What’s also new and both bold and necessary is that Mahajan takes us inside the lives of these terrorists. He accomplishes the seemingly impossible task of making us, if not like them, then at least understand them, both on a personal and political level. It is in these sections that he asks the most difficult and urgent questions, and I hope... Read More →

Introducing Our Class Of 2017

The Cleveland Foundation today announced the winners of its 82nd Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. The 2017 recipients of the only national juried prize for literature that confronts racism and examines diversity are: • Isabel Allende, Lifetime Achievement • Peter Ho Davies, The Fortunes, Fiction • Tyehimba Jess, Olio, Poetry • Karan Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs, Fiction • Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures, Nonfiction “The new Anisfield-Wolf winners broaden our insights on race and diversity,” said Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who chairs the jury. “This year, we honor a breakthrough history of black women mathematicians powering NASA, a riveting novel of the Asian American experience, a mesmerizing, poetic exploration of forgotten black musical... Read More →

Louise Erdrich Wins Big At National Book Critics Circle Awards, Urges Writers To “Be Fierce And Dangerous About The Truth”

Poet and novelist Louise Erdrich, wiping tears from her eyes, accepted the National Book Critics Circle Award Thursday night for her latest work, LaRose, before a cheering audience at New York’s New School auditorium. LaRose tells of two families linked by tragedy, based on a story Erdrich heard about a gun accident long ago. “And of course the story was only two lines long: ‘A man killed a boy. The man gave up his son to be raised by the other family,’ “Erdrich told Kirkus Reviews. “I never thought I’d write about it, but the story stayed with me.” The book is “an arresting, discerning, nimble novel that takes the entirety of Native American history in its grasp,” said critic Colette Bancroft as she introduced the prize. “Within that destiny, Erdrich is saying... Read More →

REVIEW: Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West” Blazes Fresh Ground In Hot Political Climate

The blazing new novel from Mohsin Hamid opens with this sentence: “In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.” In “Exit West,” Nadia is “always clad from the tips of her toes to the bottom of her jugular in a flowing black robe,” a garb she will wear throughout her life. When Saeed meets her, they are taking an evening class on corporate identity and product branding, which seems like a sly reference to Hamid’s marvelous 2013 book “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.” Saeed watches the robed Nadia don a motorcycle helmet and swing a leg over her motorbike before rumbling off. Later, over their first coffee, he is surprised to learn she doesn’t... Read More →

New Documentary “The Revival” Gives Queer Black Women The Mic

Four of the women from "The Revival." Photo credit: TheRevivalMovie.com If self-described "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet" Audre Lorde were alive today, you might find her celebrating with the women of "The Revival," a salon-style poetry tour dedicated to amplifying the voices and experiences of queer women of color.  The tour is the brainchild of Jade Foster, a poet in Brooklyn, N.Y. and founder of Cereus Arts, an artists’ collective. It's October 2012 outing was immortalized in the documentary, "The Revival: Women and the Word," making its Northeast Ohio debut this month at the Cleveland International Film Festival. It is the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards community film this year. "The Revival" women are a mix of 20-to-40something poets, singers and songwriters, all... Read More →

“Thirty Million Words” Initiative Empowers Parents To Use Everyday Conversation As A Tool To Build Strong Brains

The Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges famously said, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Bibliophiles might say amen, but books are barriers, not passports, for the estimated 36 million adults in the United States who can’t read above a third-grade level. In Cuyahoga County, 400,000 people — almost half the population — read and calculate below an 8th-grade level, which bars them from standard job training; while 67 percent of Cleveland kindergarteners arrive “not fully prepared to start.” Into this grim turf – so far from Borges’ Paradise – rides a short woman, Dr. Dana Suskind, who founded the Thirty Million Words Initiative in Chicago. She came to Cleveland as a guest of the Literacy Cooperative, arriving with a PowerPoint and... Read More →
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