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Author Archives: Tara Jefferson

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 →

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 →

Coretta Scott King’s Posthumous Memoir Details The Woman Beyond The King Name

Coretta Scott King begins her posthumous new memoir with a terrific metaphor: "Most people know me as Mrs. King. The wife of, the widow of, the mother of, the leader of. . .Makes me sound like the attachments that come with my vacuum cleaner."  When she died in 2006 at age 78, 12,000 people came to her eight-hour Georgia funeral, including four U.S. presidents. In this sweeping memoir "My Life, My Love, My Legacy" King details her rise from a restricted childhood in Marion, Alabama, to become one of the most visible leaders of the Civil Rights movement. But as King plainly states, most people were still unable to separate her legacy from her husband’s, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She writes that this never bothered her: "We did not have a his-and-hers mission. We were one... Read More →

Author Margot Lee Shetterly Shares “Hidden Figures” Origin Story At Case Western Reserve University

Seven years ago, Hidden Figures author Margot Lee Shetterly discovered a great untold story in her own hometown.   Shetterly, 47, grew up in Hampton, Virginia surrounded by "extraordinary ordinary people," men and women who toiled daily at NASA's Langley Research Center, including her own father. But it wasn't until a holiday visit when her husband asked a question—prompting her father's story about the black women who calculated the trajectories of the first orbital space flight—that the gravitas really sunk in.       "These women's lives intersected so many of the signature moments of what we call the American century," Shetterly noted, "so why has it taken decades for us to tell their story?"    Flanked by colorful NASA backdrops and a full... Read More →

Author Isabel Wilkerson On Past And Present: “Our Current Divisions Are Neither New Nor Surprising”

Journalist Isabel Wilkerson keeps her readers connected to history.   During the summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Wilkerson gave context to swimmer Simone Manuel's historic gold medal by bringing forward the long history of blacks being barred from public pools and beaches -- and she did it in a mere 300 words. Likewise, when Clevelanders rejoiced over their first NBA championship, Wilkerson pointed out the triumph rested on LeBron James being a child of the Great Migration. She regularly uses her Facebook page to profile politicians, activists and entertainers whose ascension in popular culture lies in the Great Migration  -- the mass exodus of six million African-Americans between 1910-1970 from the rural South to all corners of the United States.   Isabel... Read More →

In Jacqueline Woodson’s World, The Hard Conversations Come Easy

Karen R. Long contributed to the reporting. Every evening in her four-story Brooklyn townhouse, author Jacqueline Woodson and her partner gather their family around for a meal and a ritual: Each person shares one act of kindness they've given that day -- and one way kindness found its way back to them.  Celebrated for Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn, Woodson, 53, writes literature with family at its core.  Each Kindness, her 2012 picture book, considers two schoolgirls and a missed chance at friendship. "How does one walk through this world and be kind without even giving it a second thought?" Woodson said she wondered as she wrote the work. With wit and warmth and a bit of edge, Woodson told a packed auditorium in Beachwood, Ohio, how she thinks on the page and in person... Read More →

A Literary President: Obama Reflects On The Books That Gave Him Stamina And Resolve

President Barack Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia shop at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., back in 2014. Official White House photo by Pete SouzaLate at night and through eight grueling years, literature helped sustain the outgoing president of the United States. In a wide-ranging interview with New York Times chief book critic Michiko Kakutani, Barack Obama reflected on the centrality of reading and the titles that have given him insight and solace, particularly in fiction.  He mentions just completing Colson Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad" and putting Maxine Hong Kingston's "The Woman Warrior" on the Kindle of his older daughter Malia. The conversation shows a deeply reflective man in the midst of shaping his second act. At 55, he leaves the White House a... Read More →

“Hidden Figures” Is Getting A Lot Of Hollywood Buzz, But Don’t Forget About The Book

Type "scientist" into Google and what images do you find? As author Margot Lee Shetterly would describe it, the results are pretty pale. They are "mostly male. Usually white." But the Virginia writer knew this convention to be false. She grew up surrounded by blacks in STEM. Her father spent 40 years working in NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Her aunts and uncles overwhelmingly made their way into engineering and technology. To Shetterly, "the face of science was brown like mine."  It makes sense, then, that her first book, "Hidden Figures," was sparked by a visit home, when her father casually mentioned that her former Sunday school teacher, Kathleen Land, worked for NASA as a mathematician. Shetterly, 47, followed that thread and spent the next several years... Read More →

“Racism Does Not Die Easily”: Reflections On Parallels Between The Japanese And Muslim Experience In America

by Matthew Hashiguchi, documentary filmmaker Over the past year, I’ve been asked many times about the correlation between Japanese Americans and Muslim Americans.I recently completed a documentary film, Good Luck Soup, which chronicles my family’s experience in the decades after the World War II Internment Camps. Many suggest that the Japanese American experience of the 1940s mirrors the Muslim American experience of today. While there are similarities, the starkest isn’t between Muslims and Japanese Americans, rather, it’s between the American public of the 40s and today. Both periods used fear to rationalize crude, racist and hateful gut reactions towards people who are not considered "American" because of how they look, pray and culturally associate.After the Berlin attack... Read More →
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