“All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naïve. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: that I am nobody but myself.”

— Ralph Ellison

Goodbye, 2012 and hello, 2013! We hope you had a wonderful year here with us and that you will continue to visit us in the new year!

As our first full year of blogging here is coming to a close, we at Anisfield-Wolf wanted to take a moment to say thank you for reading. We enjoy how many of you come here every day and leave comments about your favorite authors. It’s a joy for us to begin conversations about who is important to you in the literary world and why. We’re also active on Facebook and Twitter, where we keep an ongoing discussion about new books, the “old” books you can’t put down, and the literature that has fundamentally changed your life. 

In 2013, we’d love to hear from you and add your voices to the blog. If there’s a piece you’ve written about an Anisfield-Wolf award winner, please e-mail us at Hello@Anisfield-Wolf.org — we’d love to add your voice to our dialog here. 

Please share – what would you like to see on this blog for 2013? More book reviews, information on book signings and conferences, information on book clubs? We’re all ears!

We’ve talked so much about Mohsin Hamids The Reluctant Fundamentalist coming to the big screen next year and the wait is almost over. The adaptation is scheduled to hit theatres in February 2013 and we can’t wait. It received rave reviews when it premiered at the Venice film festival this fall and critics have praised Mira Nair’s vision.

In this Hollywood Reporter video, stars of the film (Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson and Keifer Sutherland) sit down with Nair to talk about filming and why they were drawn to the project.

We’re keeping it light this week—we know everyone is busy with family and friends and the wonderfulness of the holiday season. In honor of Christmas being around the corner, we found this interview with Junot Diaz on American Public Media about his connection to his culture and how he celebrates Christmas. We particularly liked this quote about the connectedness of the holidays: 

I think part of sitting down and sharing a meal with family and with the community is that food is a remarkable bonding force. When I think of that state that we loved to achieve. That state where you’re together with people you love, that you care about, who are your relatives.

For a shining evening, or for a shining day, you are able to achieve communion. It’s kind of a peace with each other. It’s kind of sharing. It’s kind of communication. It’s kind of, just, being in each other’s presence. And I think what helps us to achieve that is the dishes that we grew up with, the dishes that are familiar, the dishes that have always meant solidarity and family.

And let me tell you, after a tough, tough year, nothing lifts the spirit — nothing lifts the soul — like attempting to achieve communion. What better way than to eat a whole bunch of awesome food that says family, says community, says home, says love?

We completely agree. 

Happy holidays, everyone! 

If you haven’t read it already, Junot Diaz’ This is How You Lose Her is a terrific collection of short stories that reaffirmed NY Times book critic Michiko Kakutani belief that Diaz has “one of the most distinctive and magnetic voices in contemporary fiction.”

Multiple book critics have deemed Louise Erdrich’s new novel the best she’s written and that’s saying a lot as her other 13 novels have been widely praised for her extraordinary storytelling skills. Watch a quick video of Erdrich discussing her latest.

Do we need to say more about Toni Morrison? We don’t think so. We’ve enjoyed her many interviews this year while on the promotion trail for her latest book, Home, and she was candid in her views on racism, her legacy, and President Obama. Home shines a harsh light on an era we tend to idealize and Ms. Morrison would have it no other way.

We talked about Junot Diaz’ great year, but Louise Erdrich is another Anisfield-Wolf winner with an amazing 2012. She released her 14th novel and saw it win the National Book Award, among others.

In an interview with the Daily Beast she said:

I suppose if I lived in New York this would not seem so dreamlike. The actual award—a bronze sculpture of a scroll and a book (good for weight lifting) is on a shelf at the bookstore. Soon I’ll bring it to my hometown’s art gallery, the Red Door, for a visit, then up to the Turtle Mountains. It is sort of a traveling award. Otherwise, everything is the same. I am back in Minnesota and am again part of an intense family life. Last night I cooked a mediocre vegetable/peanut/rice dinner, helped my daughter with homework, and went to a meeting with my sister. I still have trouble sleeping and am thinking about the next book.

Watch the video below to hear Erdrich’s thoughts on her latest book.

Several Nobel laureates, Libraries Without Borders and dozens of authors believe so. They are petitioning for books to be considered crucial in disaster relief. Among those who have signed the petition are Anisfield-Wolf winners Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz, Joyce Carol Oates and Edwidge Danticat.

Patrick Weil, chairman of Libraries Without Borders, says they are urging the UN to consider “nourishment of the mind” a fundamental resource in disaster relief. This first came about after the Haiti earthquake in 2010, when the organization was contacted about rebuilding a destroyed library.

Weil said:

“The first priority is life, but when life is secure, what can people do if they are staying in a camp? They cannot do anything, and they can become depressed. Once life is secured, books are essential. They’re not the first priority, but the second…They are so important. They’re the beginning of recovery, in terms of reconnecting with the rest of the world, and feeling like a human being again.”

In the video above, get an overview of Libraries Without Borders and UNICEF’s efforts to bring literature to distressed areas of Haiti. For more information, visit urgencyofreading.org.

Few writers get the opportunity to be popular and well-regarded, particularly with readers’ fickle attention spans. But Junot Diaz seems to be hitting on both fronts. Diaz wrote a message of thanks to all his fans this year on his Facebook page. His list of accolades for his latest book, This is How You Lose Her, is quite impressive: 

Now with the long tour over the new book is finally starting to come to life–God knows when it will get done but it’s starting to pull on me again. If it takes off I might be signing off facebook in a couple of weeks in order to focus on its full-time and will be back in late summer in time for the fall paperback tour madness. Again: thanks one and all. Also: my publisher sent along this list and I’m super-grateful to all the editors who pulled for this book of stories. Mil gracias. And so without further ado:

Finalist for the National Book Award

New York Times Sunday Book Review: 100 Notable Books of 2012

EW Top 10 Best Fiction of 2012

Time Magazine Top 10 Books of 2012

Huffington Post Best Books of 2012

Book Page Best Books of 2012: named #1 Best Book of 2012

Kirkus Best Books of 2012

Amazon Best Books of the Year: Editor’s Top Picks for 2012

Slate Best Books of 2012

Barnes and Noble “Favorite Books of the Year” Top 15 Fiction pick

Los Angeles Public Library Best Fiction of 2012

Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of the Year: Top 29 Picks for International Fiction

Booklist Editor’s Choice for Best of 2012

Newsday 10 Best Books of 2012

Barnes and Noble Best Books of 2012: Fiction

Kansas City Star Top Fiction Pick for 2012

Saint Louis Post-Dispatch 50 Favorite Books of 2012

Financial Times Best Books of 2012

LA Times Holiday Book Gift


2007 winner Scott Reynolds Nelson’s latest book gives a thorough rundown of America’s history with debt—a history that is as old as our country.

In “A Nation of Deadbeats,” Nelson describes us as a nation of “dreamers and defaulters.” His timing could not be better, as our nation deals with the “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

Judith Ortiz Cofer, 1994 winner for fiction, shares her advice on becoming a writer in this quick clip. She stresses the importance of taking your craft seriously and making room for your goals in your life: 

“You have to imagine yourself as an artist before you can become an artist. And the way that I did it, was getting up at 5 in the morning and writing for two hours before everyone else woke up. You have to allocate a place and time to become an artist. Just like if you want to be the best basketball player who ever existed. You can’t sit in a room and say, ‘I am going to be the greatest.’ You have to get out to the court and practice and practice. A musician has to practice. A singer has to sing. A writer has to write.” 

Watch the entire video above and get inspired! 

Slate.com book editor Dan Kois, DoubleX editor Hanna Rosin, and Brow Beat editor David Haglund sat down for a Slate Audio Book Club podcast to discuss Zadie Smith’s newest book, “NW,” which was recently named one of the best books of 2012 by the New York Times.

Listen to the entire audio book club podcast here, where the editors discuss the “Google-ability” of the book and comparisons to Ulysses.

 On December 6, Toni Morrison will deliver the Ingersoll Lecture on Immortality at 5 pm in Sanders Theatre on the Harvard campus. Throughout the fall semester, Harvard Divinity School has hosted a working group on the religious dimensions of Morrison’s writings. Watch the video here.  

If you’re interested in attending, tickets may be requested from the Harvard Box Office. Limit of 2 tickets per person. Tickets are available by phone and internet for a fee, or in person at the Holyoke Center Box Office. Call 617.496.2222 or reserve online at www.boxoffice.harvard.edu. Limited availability. Tickets are valid until 5:00 pm on the day of the event.

The event will be live-streamed via a link on the Harvard Divinity School home page beginning at 5:15 pm. 

If you are in the area and able to attend, let us know your thoughts on Morrison’s lecture! 


David Levering Lewis, 1994 and 2001 Anisfield-Wolf award winner and noted historian of W.E.B. DuBois, was quoted in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education piece on black sexuality and its prevalence (or lack thereof) in scholarly work. 

“Some of this scholarship is a bit queasy and sounds like a rationalization for an exercise in curiosity. But there is room in the big tent of the academy for these kinds of explorations. History without sexuality is incomplete.” 

Read the entire piece here and learn more about Lewis in the video above. He recently gave the The William A. Kinnison Endowed Lecture at Wittenberg University in October.