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.