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5 Things You Don’t Know About The Anisfield-Wolf Ceremony

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.



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