The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards will expand its reach in 2015 with the addition of a second scholar at Case Western Reserve University teaching about racism and the awards literature, starting in the fall. The Cleveland University posted a description of the fellowship this month.
The individual who is hired will join Dr. Lisa Nielson, a pioneering partner to the book awards. She has been instrumental in bringing Anisfield-Wolf literature into the university canon. A classically-trained musician and scholar, Nielson has won major grants and two university teaching awards since she became the first Anisfield-Wolf SAGES scholar in the fall of 2011.
Her success has bred much success: students who take multiple courses from her, and who have completed original research on some of the writers awarded the prize in the past 80 years. Nielson holds a “bad movie night” for students and ad hoc discussion sessions on Friday afternoons.
In 2014, Nielson wrote a moving essay about her work in the classroom during the last three years, admitting that teaching about racism keeps her up at night:
Listening to my students, I find a generation that thinks creatively about politics, gender, race, sexualities. They consume music and media differently than I do and express themselves in new ways. Their desire for inclusion and capacity for acceptance astonishes me; they inspire me to think more fluidly about myself. They have changed me profoundly as a teacher and as a human being.
Edith Anisfield Wolf created the book awards to recognize literature dedicated to fostering conversations about tolerance and cultural acceptance. Through these books and my students, I am constantly working to hear what I think was her real message: Listen.