Since 2016, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards have hosted Cleveland Book Week, to celebrate its past and present winners and showcase Greater Cleveland’s diverse literary and literacy community.

The Great Lakes African American Writers Conference (GLAAWC, pronounced “glossy”) joined Book Week in 2018.

This year, Literary Cleveland’s annual Inkubator Writing Conference has joined to make the 2022 festival the largest and most collaborative literary celebration yet.

Literary Cleveland will kick off the 2022 Book Week with the Inkubator Writing Conference, with online literary panels running September 6-8. The in-person component returns to the downtown Cleveland Public Library September 9-10. The organization will hold free writing workshops, panel discussions, craft talks, readings, and more to empower writers, advance artistic dialogue, celebrate literary excellence, and amplify local voices. 2022 speakers include Ross Gay and Aimee Nezhukumatathil.

Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards events will take place September 14-16, with the ceremony to be held Thursday, September 15 at the Maltz Performing Arts Center.

The 2022 AWBA winners coming to Cleveland are:

  • Percival Everett for “The Trees” (Fiction)
  • Donika Kelly for “The Renunciations” (Poetry)
  • George Makari for “Of Fear and Strangers: A History of Xenophobia” (Nonfiction)
  • Tiya Miles for “All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake” (Nonfiction)
  • Lifetime Achievement winner Ishmael Reed

The series of Book Week programs will be capped off by the Great Lakes African American Writers Conference on September 17, which will relocate this year to its new home at the Cleveland Public Library, Main Branch in downtown Cleveland. The conference will feature the prolific award-winning author Walter Mosley as the Langston Hughes Literary Keynote, along with free music, spoken word, lectures, panel discussions, and much more celebrating the African and African American literary arts. Additionally, a Sunday Brunch on September 18 features two-time James Beard Award-winning culinary author Toni Tipton-Martin and local celebrity chef Eric Wells.

Mark your calendar now for these engaging events and more as the calendar evolves with further details.

The Cleveland Foundation today unveiled the winners of its 87th Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. The 2022 recipients of the only national juried prize for literature that confronts racism and explores diversity are:

Percival Everett, “The Trees,” Fiction

Donika Kelly, “The Renunciations,” Poetry

George Makari, “Of Fear and Strangers: A History of Xenophobia,” Nonfiction 

Tiya Miles, “All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake,” Nonfiction

Ishmael Reed, Lifetime Achievement 

All five members of the Anisfield-Wolf jury — chair Henry Louis Gates Jr, poet Rita Dove, novelist Joyce Carol Oates, historian Simon Schama and psychologist Steven Pinker — salute the new class in the video below.

ABOUT OUR WINNERS

FICTION

Percival Everett is an experimental writer of novels, short stories and poetry. “The Trees” opens as a comic story in Money, Miss. before morphing into a metaphysical commentary on lynching, racism and police brutality – a mystery tied to the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till. “This is a wickedly clever novel of ideas in the guise of genre fiction, a combination of mystery, thriller, police procedural and absurdist comedy,” said Anisfield-Wolf Juror Joyce Carol Oates. Read more…

POETRY

Donika Kelly graduated from Southern Arkansas University and went on to earn her MFA in Writing from the Michener Center for Writers and a doctorate in English from Vanderbilt University. Her first book of poetry, “Bestiary,” won the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and the 2017 Hurston/Wright Award. “The Renunciations” responds to her childhood trauma and exists in part to recast its meanings. It also speaks to a wife and lover exiting the speaker’s life. Anisfield-Wolf Juror Rita Dove lauded these poems: “Several mini-sequences are woven throughout; their periodic reappearance – the “Dear –” erasures, Self-Portraits, Sightings, Oracles – acts as a subtle yet devastating reminder of the cycle of violence. I returned to Kelly’s book, and she set me gasping anew. This is poetry of the highest order.” Read more…

NONFICTION

George Makari is an historian, psychoanalyst, and psychiatrist whose “Of Fear and Strangers: A History of Xenophobia” was a Bloomberg Best Nonfiction Book of 2021. The text is a riveting investigation into the history of an idea, xenophobia, which was declared the 2016 word of the year by Dictionary.com. The word, unlike antisemitism and racism, puts the emphasis on the perpetrator — not the victim — of these irrational fears, bigoted hatreds, and indefensible acts. “We see countless books that consider instances of racism,” Anisfield-Wolf Juror Steven Pinker notes. “Very few seek to understand it as a phenomenon to be studied and analyzed. ‘Of Fear and Strangers’ does that, free of cliché and jargon.” Read more...

NONFICTION

Tiya Miles is a public historian who wrote the 2021 National Book Award-winning “All That She Carried” after learning about a plain cotton sack discovered at a flea market near Nashville. “All That She Carried” traces the history of three women, Rose, her daughter, Ashley, and her great-granddaughter, Ruth, who embroidered 10 lines of their matrilineal story of coming out of slavery on the sack. “I found it enormously illuminating, incredibly moving – it made me think in fresh ways about this long and difficult and challenging history,” writes Anisfield-Wolf juror Simon Schama. Read more…

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

Ishmael Reed — a poet, novelist, playwright, lyricist, cartoonist, musician and founder of small presses and publications — has remade literature. He has done so across six decades with satire, curiosity, teaching and an increasingly global reach. Known as “Uncle Ish” to his many admirers, the 1998 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship recipient remains a fierce critic of the tokenism of multi-cultural artists and of establishment media. The New Yorker magazine positioned Reed in 2021 as “a canonical author of the 20th century and an underground voice of the 21st.”

“Reed is one of the most extraordinary and fearless authors in the great tradition of American satire. He is also, without question, the godfather of Black postmodernism, and one of the most continuously innovative and prolific writers at work today,” said Anisfield-Wolf Jury Chair Henry Louis Gates Jr. Reed serves as a distinguished professor at California College of the Arts. Read more…

Look for interviews with the class of 2022 in the upcoming season of The Asterisk*, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards podcast.