CLEVELAND, Ohio (April 12, 2011) – The Cleveland Foundation today announced the winners of the 76th Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards www.Anisfield-Wolf.org

They are:

  • Nicole Krauss, Great House, Fiction
  • Mary Helen Stefaniak, The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia, Fiction
  • David Eltis/David Richardson, Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Nonfiction
  • Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns, Nonfiction
  • John Edgar Wideman, Lifetime Achievement

“The 2011 Anisfield-Wolf winners are notable for the unique way each author addresses the complex issues of race and cultural diversity,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University, who serves as jury chair. “The books and authors honored this year stand out, not only for their creative and wide-ranging approach to difficult subject matter, but also for their underlying faith in our shared humanity.”

“Cleveland poet and philanthropist Edith Anisfield Wolf created this book prize more than 75 years ago because of her conviction that the issue of race was the most critical dilemma facing the United States. It was her fervent desire to break down stereotypes and encourage civil discourse so that future generations would be more appreciative of human diversity,” said Cleveland Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Ronald B. Richard. “This prize remains a fitting testimony to the vision of a woman truly ahead of her time.”

About the Anisfield-Wolf Prize

The Anisfield-Wolf winners will be honored in Cleveland on September 15 at a ceremony hosted by the Cleveland Foundation and emceed by Jury Chair Gates. Rita Dove, Joyce Carol Oates, Steven Pinker and Simon Schama also served on the jury. The Cleveland Foundation has administered the book awards since 1963, upon the death of its creator, Edith Anisfield Wolf. The Anisfield-Wolf prize remains the only juried American literary competition devoted to recognizing books that have made an important contribution to society’s understanding of racism and the diversity of human cultures.

About the Cleveland Foundation

Established in 1914, the Cleveland Foundation is the world’s first community foundation and the nation’s second-largest today, with assets of $1.87 billion and 2010 grants of nearly $85 million. The foundation improves the lives of Greater Clevelanders by building community endowment, addressing needs through grantmaking, and providing leadership on vital issues. Currently the foundation proactively directs two-thirds of its flexible grant dollars to the community’s greatest needs: economic transformation, public education reform, human services and youth development, neighborhoods, and arts advancement.

For more information on the Cleveland Foundation, visit www.ClevelandFoundation.org.

The Anisfield-Wolf book prize 75th anniversary celebration is in full swing at Cuyahoga County Public Library. Since January, Library staff members have facilitated lively discussions of books by Anisfield-Wolf book prize-winning authors in each of the Library’s 28 branches.

Special Anisfield-Wolf book discussion series held in the Library’s Bay Village (502 Cahoon Road / 440.871.6392), Beachwood (25501 Shaker Boulevard / 216.831.6868) and Parma Heights (6206 Pearl Road / 440.884.2313) branches have been extremely popular. Each month, book clubs meet at these branches to engage in thought-provoking discussions of books by Anisfield-Wolf book prize-winners. Past discussion titles have included: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz; Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali; and The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed, among many others.

During a recent discussion of Toni Morrison’s prize-winning novel Beloved at the Parma Heights Branch, book club members spoke eloquently about how profoundly the book had changed their lives. One member said she was proud to belong to a group that would read and discuss such a book.

Members of the Bay Village Branch book club expressed their gratitude recently for the opportunity to read and share their thoughts about Edwidge Danticat’s poignant memoir, Brother, I’m Dying. The book resonated profoundly with the group, particularly in the aftermath of Haiti’s devastating earthquakes, and prompted a thoughtful discussion of the island nation’s past and current tragedies.

Book club members at the Beachwood Branch enjoyed a special visit from Anisfield-Wolf book prize representative Laura Scharf, who shared the history of the prize as well as the story of its founder, Edith Anisfield Wolf.

Books by Anisfield-Wolf prize-winning authors have also been featured in the Library’s monthly Online Book Discussion. These online discussions, which are moderated by Library staff members, allow readers to share their thoughts on selected books with fellow readers across Cuyahoga County from their home or office computer. In May, in conjunction with Child and Family Month, the online book group held a discussion for teen readers of The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, as well as a family-friendly discussion of Louise Erdrich’s children’s novel The Birchbark House.

By facilitating these discussions, Cuyahoga County Public Library seeks not only to connect readers with the works of outstanding authors, but also to highlight the rich, storied history of the Anisfield-Wolf book prize and to spread the Anisfield-Wolf message of tolerance in today’s global society.

All Cuyahoga County Public Library book discussions are open to the public. To participate in the online book discussion or to register for a book discussion group at a Library branch, visit www.CuyahogaLibrary.org.

Sari Feldman
Executive Director, Cuyahoga County Public Library

The Anisfield-Wolf book prize turns 75 this year. Quite an accomplishment from a shy poet and philanthropist in Cleveland, who in 1935 had the insight to see race relations as the nation’s critical issue; one that could continue to eat away and destroy us if progress wasn’t made.

Edith Anisfield Wolf was passionate in her belief that we could break down stereotypes that arise from fear, myth, and ignorance. She wanted to encourage people to think beyond what they knew and what was familiar; to read works that open new worlds and ideas; and debate these critical issues to open and challenge our ways of thinking. It was her desire that through these conversations, participants and future generations would gain better understanding of others and appreciate the richness in our differences.

That’s why she created the Anisfield-Wolf book prize. Thanks to her vision, some of the world’s greatest literary voices are known and respected for their contributions to our nation’s cultural identity. Familiar authors, including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Thurston, Ralph Ellison and Gwendolyn Brooks, weren’t always as well received as they are today due to the color of their skin or the subject matter of the works. That level of respect changed with the Anisfield-Wolf book prize, often referred to as the “Black Pulitzer” in its early years.

In today’s ever-more-global society, issues of race and cultural identity continue to both unite and divide us. Thanks to efforts such as the Anisfield-Wolf book prize, a greater number of diverse voices are participating in the conversation, opening and challenging our minds.

What works and writers have influenced you?

Are we closer to achieving Edith Anisfield Wolf’s vision of gaining a greater understanding and appreciation for others?

Tell us what you think.