2008 winner Junot Diaz has his fans on the edge of their seats as they wait for his latest book, This Is How You Lose Her, to hit bookshelves in September. The collection of stories focuses on the many facets of love—maternal love, romantic love, illicit love and so on. It has gotten rave reviews from critics, including one who called it “ribald, streetwise, and stunningly moving.”

Diaz spoke at the author breakfast at the 2012 Book Expo and gave the audience a taste of what they could expect from the book. Check it out in the video above. 

Penguin Press, Zadie Smith’s publisher, is offering readers a sneak peek at her latest novel over on its Facebook page. We’re not sure how long it will be available, so if you’re interested, go read it today!

The reviews for NW are already trickling in and we really like this write-up from the Washington Post, even if it’s not the typical glowing four-star review:

The Washington Post’s Ron Charles writes:

“You either submit to Smith’s eclectic style or you set this book aside in frustration. At times, reading “NW” is like running past a fence, catching only strips of light from the scene on the other side. Smith makes no accommodation for the distracted reader — or even the reader who demands a clear itinerary. But if you’re willing to let it work on you, to hear all these voices and allow the details to come into focus when Smith wants them to, you’ll be privy to an extraordinary vision of our age.”

Do reviews like this make you want to read it more or less? Will you be picking up a copy of “NW” when it hits bookshelves in September? 

As we are furiously preparing for our awards ceremony in a few weeks, we found this video, taped for our 70th anniversary. In it, James McBride (The Color of Water), Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (Random Family) and jury chair Henry Louis Gates, among others, share their appreciation for an award that highlights the importance of talking about race. Watch the video above and let us know in the comments what you think. 

“Writing is almost a place of dreams for me, and I don’t have to give up anything to do it.” ~Walter Mosley 

In this video from BigThink, 1998 winner Walter Mosley shares a bit about his writing career and aspirations (did he always know he would be a bestselling author?) and his daily writing routine. 

2003 winner Stephen L. Carter grants an interview with Glenn Reynolds, of InstaVision to talk about his latest book, The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln and whether he thinks America’s obsession with Lincoln has anything to do with the current political climate. 

Each year we recognize several authors for their contributions to the ongoing conversation about race and diversity in the world. In September, each of our winners makes the trek to Cleveland for the awards ceremony, for our audience to meet these esteemed authors in person and to hear them read their works. It’s a hot ticket in town but does the public know much about the ceremony itself? We talked to Mary Louise Hahn, consultant to Cleveland Foundation for the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards and she gave us (and you!) insight into the process: 

1. How long does it take for us to prep for the awards ceremony every year?

It takes us about three months to work out all the logistics, with several colleagues, PlayhouseSquare, ideastream and Colortone professionals involved.

2. How many AW winners are there?

211 including Lifetime Achievement winners (a tradition started by jury chair Henry Louis Gates, Jr., which goes back to 1996.) ·

3. Which author has flown the farthest distance to make it for the awards ceremony?

Probably Nam Le, flying from Australia via London and New York to Cleveland.

4. How many books does the jury read before making their selections on who is the winner?

Because our jury is so extraordinarily well read, quite a few of the 200+ publically nominated books are ones with which they are already familiar. By the end of the selection process, they will have all zeroed in on approximately 15-20 books and critiqued them together. ·

5. What is the largest attendance we’ve had the awards ceremony?

We had 950 people at Severance Hall for the 75th anniversary. Last year, our first at the Ohio Theatre in Playhouse Square, we had an attendance of 850. Previous to Severance, our largest attendance was 640—the maximum capacity of the Bolton Theatre at the Cleveland Playhouse. Our last three years in the Bolton, our ceremonies had only a few empty seats, despite the fact, that the tickets were free.



Interview with Isabel Wilkerson from Mayborn School of Journalism on Vimeo.

To say there has been immense interest in Isabel Wilkerson’s “Warmth of Other Suns” would be an understatement. She recently gave the ending keynote at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference last month, where she noted that she has been on the road promoting the book extensively since it was first released in September 2010. During the wrap-up interview, Wilkerson was asked if we might see her book on the big screen, similar to “The Help.” Check out the video above for the answer as well as more on Wilkerson’s process, her writing career and more. 

We live in a world that is dominated by the impact of race, class and diversity, but conversations about those ideas don’t happen nearly as often as they need to. That’s why our mission here at Anisfield-Wolf feels so fulfilling, because the books we select provide those sparks that can ignite meaningful conversations bubbling just below the surface.

Take 2009 winner Annette Gordon-Reed for instance. Her books on Thomas Jefferson and his relationship with Sally Hemmings helped Americans analyze the complexities of race and freedoms during our nation’s infancy. Gordon-Reed recently sat down for an interview with BigThink.com about the impact of race in her life and in our society. Her answers on going to a predominately white school in the still segregated South might surprise you. 

The events of the past few months have really been hard on the nation’s psyche. An uptick in mass murders and violence seems to have everyone on edge and debating what everything really means.

But our Anisfield-Wolf jury member Steven Pinker would argue that while current events are troubling and no less disturbing, we should know that life even a few hundred years ago would have been a lot different. In his latest book, The Better Angels Of Our Nature, Pinker discusses the peace that is seemingly invisible all around us.

In a recent interview with George Stroumboulopoulos, Pinker explains that perception isn’t always reality. “You turn on the news and it seems like there’s nothing but bombings and shootings and stabbings,” he says. “We’re better and better at covering violence…If your impression of how dangerous the world is comes from how many events you can remember, you’re going to think it’s getting worse and worse.” Check out the video above and let us know if you agree with Pinker’s thesis.

Some of the world’s greatest historians—David W. Blight, Henry Louis Gates, Taylor Branch, etc.—are also Anisfield-Wolf award winners. They know their subjects backward and forward, being able to recall dates, times, places with astonishing accuracy, clarity and insight. They make it possible for us to get to know some of history’s most important leaders in a way that is completely accessible. 

That is what David W. Blight aims to do with his upcoming book, his third focusing on the life of Frederick Douglass, who he claims is the “most important and famous African American leader in the nineteenth century.” Check out the above video to learn more about the man who escaped slavery to become President Abraham.

We are roughly a month away from the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf ceremony and is customary, we are alerting fans to several opportunities to meet our 2012 winners. 

Book Signing with David Livingstone Smith

Cuyahoga County Public Library, Beachwood Branch (In the Meeting Room) 
25501 Shaker Boulevard
Beachwood, Ohio 44122-2398
Corner of Richmond & Shaker Boulevard
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Registration is recommended. Click here to register.



Lecture with David W. Blight

Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities (Clark Hall Room 309)
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
This event is free and open to the public.
Registration is recommended. Click here to register. 

When it comes to the writer’s life, sometimes you have to wonder how much the audience’s expectations play in to the production of a book. Do writers worry that their stories won’t connect, that this book won’t be as successful as previous works, or do they approach each book from a space of clarity, with their only concerns on whether or not they’ll be able to finish it?

In the video above, 1999 winner Russell Banks talks with PBS’ Evan Smith about why he writes and whether he writes for arts’ sake or for commerce. In his latest book, Lost Memory of Skin, Banks makes his main protagonist a paroled sex offender, someone who, Banks admits might not be the most sympathetic or intriguing of characters.

During a stop to the Tavis Smiley show on PBS, Isabel Wilkerson described her desire to capture stories of the Great Migration. It was a labor of love—more than a decade of researching, interviewing, writing, and rewriting to accurately capture the stories of African Americans who left the south for more opportunities and a better life in the North.

As Tavis Smiley says, “Everybody’s talking about this now. But only because you had the discipline and courage and conviction and commitment to tell this story – a story that is at the very epicenter of what America is.”

Have you read the book? What were your thoughts? 

We love it. We absolutely love it. When we read Colson Whitehead’s “How To Write,” we doubled over in laughter. Finally, a writer who gets it and has fun with the process.

Writing is a mysterious endeavor. Those who don’t write don’t quite get what we do or how we do it or why we do it. But it’s an exercise in exploration. Every word, every paragraph, every page, every book — it’s all exploration. Whitehead doesn’t take himself too seriously. He knows the writer’s life well.

For example, in rule #2 (“Let Your Subject Find You”), his description of a compelling subject will sound…familiar. And funny:

Once your subject finds you, it’s like falling in love. It will be your constant companion. Shadowing you, peeping in your windows, calling you at all hours to leave messages like, “Only you understand me.” Your ideal subject should be like a stalker with limitless resources, living off the inheritance he received after the suspiciously sudden death of his father. He’s in your apartment pawing your stuff when you’re not around, using your toothbrush and cutting out all the really good synonyms from the thesaurus. Don’t be afraid: you have a best seller on your hands.

Read the entire article here. You won’t regret it!