Mary Morris spent close to two decades crafting her jazz-soaked Chicago novel, The Jazz Palace, winner of this year’s Anisfield-Wolf award for fiction. “It is almost impossible for me to imagine that a book I began in 1997 is being recognized in that way, almost 20 years later,” she told the Playhouse Square crowd at this year’s ceremony. “Just for a cultural reference, Clinton was president and there were no cell phones.”
As is our tradition, we sat down with each of our winners during their Cleveland itinerary for a quick interview on what this recognition meant to them. Here is Morris’ turn in front of the camera:
Mary Morris, 2016 winner for fiction from Anisfield Wolf on Vimeo.
“America is indelibly black-ish,” sociologist Orlando Patterson asserted to the audience at Playhouse Square during this year’s awards ceremony. “Trying to imagine America without blacks is like trying to imagine Lake Erie with no oxygen.”
Patterson continued his thesis on race and culture as he accepted the 2016 Lifetime Achievement award from his friend and colleague Steven Pinker. Jurors selected Patterson for his global scholarship over the past 30 years, with his 2015 book, The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth, earning sharp praise.
Earlier that morning, we caught up with Patterson in a few quiet moments to get his thoughts on what winning an Anisfield-Wolf award meant to him. Take a listen:
Orlando Patterson, 2016 Lifetime Achievement Winner from Anisfield Wolf on Vimeo.
Cleveland welcomed poet Rowan Ricardo Phillips to town by giving him a good sense of our hometown pride. Visiting only months after the city won its first championship in 52 years, Phillips arrived in a walking boot, as he was recovering from surgery on his Achilles. As he made small talk, he’d remark, “Better me than Lebron, right?” To his surprise, everyone responded: “Yes, definitely. Better you than Lebron.”
Phillips told this story from the stage at Playhouse Square, where he was collecting the 2016 Anisfield-Wolf award for Heaven. We found a few quiet moments to speak with Phillips during his busy Cleveland itinerary about what this award means to him both personally and professionally:
Rowan Ricardo Phillips, 2016 Winner for Poetry from Anisfield Wolf on Vimeo.
Brian Seibert, the New York Times dance critic and 2016 nonfiction winner for his book, What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing, is an accomplished tap dancer himself. At the close of his book reading, the final event of Cleveland Book Week, he slipped on his tap shoes and treated the audience to a powerful dance duet with Chandler Browne, an Oberlin College student. (Missed it? Catch it here.)
A day prior, we sat down with Brian Seibert for a brief interview on what winning the 2016 award for nonfiction means to him. Take a listen:
Brian Seibert, 2016 winner for nonfiction from Anisfield Wolf on Vimeo.
From the Playhouse Square stage, Lillian Faderman began her acceptance of this year’s nonfiction award with a story of how she discovered she won. After Faderman received an email from jury chair Henry Louis Gates requesting her phone number, her wife Phyllis Irwin remarked that he must be soliciting support for the Hilary Clinton campaign.
Neither considered that he would be reaching out to tell her she had won this year’s Anisfield-Wolf prize for The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle. The skepticism was appropriate, Faderman remarked: “In the past, writers of LGBTQ history have seldom been recognized outside of our community as worthy of awards. So I’m doubly grateful to the AW jury for believing the time has come to regard LGBTQ history as part of American history.”
As is our tradition, we interview each of our winners prior to the busyness of the evening to get their quiet thoughts on what being recognized means to them. Here is Faderman’s reflection on what the award means to her:
Lillian Faderman, 2016 winner for nonfiction from Anisfield Wolf on Vimeo.
When Lillian Faderman spoke at the City Club of Cleveland this September, she ably distilled her ample Anisfield-Wolf winning history, “The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle,” into a half-hour presentation with 20 minutes of questions. Her audience was diverse, and several members expressed awe over a 76-year-old pioneer who came out as a lesbian in 1956.
Among the listeners were 14 young adults enrolled in a seminar on philanthropy in America — all first-year students at Case Western Reserve University.
“Lillian Faderman has long been a hero of mine and her work has informed my own research on early modern women,” said their professor, Barbara Burgess-Van Aken. She called her decision to bring the class “a shamelessly selfish choice which I justified by thinking that I would be giving students exposure to a different sort of nonprofit organization. Little did I realize that Lillian’s topic would spark so much passion among my students.”
Here are snippets of their responses:
One aspect of her talk that I was very interested in was the transition of the movement from being secretive and submissive to being loud and determined. It was very interesting to hear about the secret groups LGBT members would form. Prior to today, I had a vague knowledge of the history of the LGBT movement, but I did not know many of the actual details. It is pretty amazing to see how small acts of bravery here and there soon led to marches and riots.
It was surprising to hear, however, that people can be fired due to their sexual orientation. I most certainly could believe this to be true years ago, but I was not expecting it to still be true. —Claire Nordt
Lillian Faderman’s speech felt more like having a conversation with a person than listening to a scripted talk. —David Kerrigan
One aspect that I enjoyed was that she went through the very early stages of the LGBT revolution. It surprised me that people back in the 1950s would rather be called communist than gay. I know this was during the McCarthy era where it was very, very dangerous to be communist, which made it even more surprising. I like how she did not just tell us this information, but she illustrated it with statistics, evidence, and anecdotes. —Karthik Ravichandran
My visit to the Cleveland City Club and Lillian Faderman’s talk was very enlightening. I actually was hesitant about the course that the talk would take; I didn’t know if it would be a boring speech that would go on a tangent rant, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was a very intellectual and heartfelt speech. —Hemen Aklilu
Ms. Faderman has obviously gone through a lot in her lifetime and it is amazing that she has had the courage and will to do all the work she has to help educate so many people on gay rights. Her presentation was very professional but at the same time very personable. —Kyle Lewis
The City Club of Cleveland hosted an honest and ethical ceremony where the voices of many were summed up by one incredible woman who has done her best to engage, educate, and empower those who listen to her to recognize the hardships that this community has faced and to realize all that there is left to go to truly free these people. —Jacqueline Abraham
Lillian Faderman’s speech was both informative and incredibly interesting. I personally did not know much about the history of gay rights and learned a lot from the experience. It really saddens me that United States history has so much bigotry ingrained in it. We are not really educated about the history of gay rights. In high school, I learned about African Americans’ struggle for equal rights, Native Americans’ plight involving the taking over of their land, and the racism Hispanics face. Never did I learn about the LBGTQ struggle. It is absolutely appalling to me that this demographic received so much hate. —Michael Rowland
Perhaps my favorite question that was asked was about what the proper terms to reference the gay community were. There are so many things out there and it’s hard to know as an outsider what the majority prefers. It can be extremely hard to follow and her response about both gay and LGBT being acceptable was very helpful. It was nice to see her take a light-hearted approach about the acronyms and how many there are to this day. — Anna Goff
I very much enjoyed Lillian Faderman’s idea that the black power movement of the 1960s inspired the gay rights movement to rise up and take action. I had never thought of this connection before, so it was interesting to hear her perspective on it and the influence she believes it has…. In general I was a little disappointed that she didn’t talk about the AIDS epidemic in more detail because personally I feel that it was a large part of the gay rights movement in the twentieth century. To her benefit however, someone did ask a question based on AIDS, which gave her a chance to say how important it was to the struggle for civil rights. —Claire Howard
The most interesting thing at this event was whether or not queer people should be considered a minority group. Some people think that gay people are not minorities because there is only one simple difference that divides them from the rest of this heteronormative society. But wouldn’t that be the case for all minority groups? We are humans with variations in race, nationality, ability, etc. These things are just simple differences like sexuality. People are not in a minority group because they feel like they are oppressed. They are in these groups because they are oppressed. Any minority group, whether it be queer or disabled people, has to try harder in order to succeed in a society that does not acknowledge their human rights. —Mya Cox
I have spoken at a Rotary Club event, and it was much more informal and simple. This event almost seemed like a small-scale TED talk to me. Upon looking at Ms. Faderman, I expected a serious, bland, but informative speech. Instead, Ms. Faderman was light-hearted, charismatic, and very informative in her speech. She started by saying, “I am going to recap my 800+ page book in a 30 minute talk.” Rather than spitting facts or quotes from her novel, she took the listeners on a trip through the history and important events of the LGBT fight. —Rohith Koneru
Faderman also mentioned that a lot of hate came from the religious side of things. Now I cannot deny that a lot of those against the LGBT community have association with religion but I was raised Catholic and believe in that faith. I went through Catholic schooling from preschool all the way through high school and not once was a taught to hate the LGBT community. —Jeremy Hill
One other notable topic I liked was her discussion of the media portrayal of gay men as rapists and lesbians as killers. While those no longer exist in the media today, the stereotypes of gays being pedophiles and the like still exist, and TV shows and movies hardly portray LGBT characters at all, and those that do usually make a huge deal out of them. ..
A final note was that I loved the picture of Frank Kameny shaking hands with President Obama in the Oval Office because in that one picture and that one gesture, the viewer is able to see just how far the gay rights movement has come and the progress that has been made towards true equality. —Tom Schlechter
Everyone–both pro or anti LGBT–could feel the passion and struggle of the community and actually sympathize with them. I do feel like I have learned something new about the community’s struggle and the fracture it encountered on a whole another level. I respected her passion and dedication to something she truly believed in even though it has been a long hard brutal fight until this point.
As a gay male, the whole presentation affected me on an emotional level. Also, I was pleased that she was not dismissive of other cultures and opinions, which a lot of people tend to do, but instead focused more on the story of the LGBT individuals. Generally, people have a tendency to make their group seem better than others, but Faberman was very respectful towards those of other groups. —Karthik Ravichandran
We have to work hard to make sure everyone has equal rights. The fact that people are still being discriminated against is terrible. We need to band together and change this. —Michael Rowland
There is a quote on the back of each menu at EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute: “At Edwins, we believe in second chances.” Its founder Brandon Chrostowski, himself the recipient of a “second chance,” used his to help to change the face of prison re-entry in Cleveland.
The institute provides culinary training for incarcerated individuals – current and former. The idea is to lower obstacles that hinder their transition back into society. Classic French culinary techniques and basic managerial skills are served up in a six-month program at EDWINS Restaurant at Shaker Square in Cleveland and a nine-month program inside Grafton Correctional Institution.
The institute is the recipient of the 2016 Anisfield-Wolf Memorial Award, $25,000 given each fall to a nonprofit community organization for outstanding service. The prize is administered by the Center for Community Solutions.
“EDWINS is providing an effective solution to a critical community issue by helping people before and after their release from prison to learn skills that can be used in their specific field — the hospitality industry — or transferred to other fields,” said John R. Corlett, president and executive director of The Center for Community Solutions. “And they are doing more by providing services to help them overcome obstacles that have a unique twist for those re-entering society after incarceration and for their families — such as access to basic health care, legal aid, literacy programs, transportation, and employment.”
The initiative has garnered stellar results in its first three years. The program boasts a 0% recidivism rate, and of its 127 graduates, 97 percent have found a job within 30 days of completing the program.
Now 36, Chrostowski remembers standing in front of a judge as a teen, rocked by the possibility of spending 10 years in prison. Instead the judge gave him one year probation. Chrostowski embraced this chance and found a chef who mentored him.
Now himself an accomplished chef, sommelier and a fromager, Chrostowski spent years working at fine dining establishments in New York and Paris before launching EDWINS in Ohio. For him, it’s important not to relegate the formerly incarcerated to the back of the house. “They are sous-chefs, cheese experts and maître-d’s,” he explained in 2014.
The name EDWINS comes from Chrostowski’s grandfather, a man his grandson said embodies the culture he works to cultivate at his restaurant. It’s also a shortened form of “Education Wins,” a philosophy that echoes through the kitchen and dining rooms of this unique nonprofit concern.
“No one forgets the taste of winning,” the founder told CNN. “It’s not on our tongue, but it’s in our soul, and it’s contagious. So if you can overcome a hard challenge here at EDWINS, it’s a win. It gives you confidence. That’s our secret ingredient.”
Welcome to the inaugural Cleveland Book Week, September 10-16, designed to make our region a literary destination. At the center is the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards ceremony, with innovative new elements on the new Public Square, and programs from Lakewood and South Euclid-Lyndhurst.
Cleveland Flea is taking on a literary tone September 10 and Public Square will be awash in books —and ice cream—September 12. People can bring a book, swap a book and find a free book that day, as well as hear performances by the Distinguished Gentlemen of Spoken Word and the Cleveland Association of Black Storytellers. The first 500 guests who present their library card will receive free ice cream. (No library card? No problem. Staffs of the Cleveland Public Library and the Cuyahoga County Public Library will register new patrons.)
Then the county library foundation will host novelist Don DeLillo on September 13 at Case Western Reserve University as part of the Writers Center Stage series. Librarian Bill Kelly will interview DeLillo.
Next up, Anisfield-Wolf juror and former poet laureate Rita Dove will return home for a special Wednesday evening celebrating the publication of her new book, “Collected Poems” and the 30th anniversary of her Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection, “Thomas & Beulah.”
If you missed reserving your tickets to the annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Award ceremony, know can still meet our 2016 winners at the smaller, more intimate events tied closely to the themes in their award-winning books.
“We hope more people will find more ways to engage with the books, and the broader mission of equity, reading and literacy,” said Karen R. Long, manager of the awards. “Cleveland is full of world-class readers, and deserves a literary scene to match. This year, our city has been a destination for basketball fans and politicos – why not bibliophiles? We hope to add more partners next year.”
These festivities are brought to you in collaboration with Brews + Prose, Cleveland Flea, the City Club of Cleveland, and the Cuyahoga County Public Library.
Saturday, September 10
3615 Superior Avenue
9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Look for our pop-up bookshop and literary café, where you can sample coffee and cocktails while browsing rare books and first editions or mingling with some of Cleveland’s authors.
Monday, September 12
Public Square Book Swap
Bring a book or buy one there, then mingle with other readers and swap books! Hear from local writers and poets on the speaker’s steps and peruse your new book while enjoying live music, food and drinks on the Square.
Tuesday, September 13
Don DeLillo, Writers Center Stage
Maltz Performing Arts Center
Case Western Reserve University
Don DeLillo’s novels include White Noise, for which he won the 1985 National Book Award; Libra; Mao II; Underworld and Zero K. The critic Harold Bloom named DeLillo one of four living American literary giants.
Wednesday, September 14
Orlando Patterson, Lifetime Achievement
“What Have We learned About Culture, Disadvantage and Black Youth?”
The Harvard University sociologist will focus his analysis of culture, slavery and freedom on contemporary questions.
Mary Morris, The Jazz Palace
South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch
Cuyahoga County Public Library
The novelist and travel writer will bring Jazz Age Chicago to life in a reading interwined with live music from the period.
An Evening With Rita Dove & Friends
Henry Louis Gates and Toi Derricote will be on hand to honor their friend and former poet laureate, Rita Dove. The Akron native will be celebrating more than three decades of poetry in front of an audience of hometown friends and family.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
81st Annual Anisfield-Wolf Awards Ceremony
Ohio Theater in Playhouse Square
Our awards ceremony is currently sold out, but we encourage you to catch the livestream right here at www.anisfield-wolf.org, beginning at 6 p.m.
Friday, September 16
Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle
“A Very Long and (Almost) Victorious Battle: The Struggle for Gay Civil Rights”
The City Club of Cleveland
The historian will chronicle the path to social, political and economic freedom for the LGBTQ community at this City Club forum.
Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Heaven
Natural History Museum Planetarium
The poet, who splits his time between Barcelona and New York, will voice his celestial lines inside the planetarium.
Brian Seibert, What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing
Beck Center for the Arts
The New York Times dance critic will parse this rich, uniquely American art form with music, film, and performance.