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Anisfield-Wolf Award Winners Confront Racism

93-year-old Sir Wilson Harris is being honored for his Lifetime Achievements
93-year-old Sir Wilson Harris is being honored for his Lifetime Achievements

In 1935, Cleveland poet and philanthropist Edith Anisfield-Wolf established the book award that bears her name, honoring literature that explores --- and often confronts --- issues of racism and diversity. This year's awardees are a diverse group themselves, ranging from Anthony Marra for his debut novel about war-torn Chechnya, to a lifetime of work from 93-year-old Sir Wilson Harris.

WILSON HARRIS: Some oppression is subtle, some oppression is dominant --- it takes various forms.

Over the course of some 25 novels, Harris has used an abstract writing style to take apart the way we define oppression. He says it's not always easy to discern the good guys from the bad.

WILSON HARRIS: There's a mystery to freedom, there's a mystery to truth, there's a mystery to knowledge. And one has to pursue this all the time with an awareness that what one is getting at, cannot be absolutely defined.

Barbados writer, George Lamming, with also be honored with a Lifetime Achievement award for his writings on the impact of colonization on the Caribbean. The other Anisfield-Wolf winners, this year, include Adrian Matejka for his poem about African American Heavyweight champ, Jack Johnson, and Jerusalem-based writer Ari Shavit, for his non-fiction chronicle, "My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel". All recipients will get their awards in a Cleveland ceremony, this September.

David C. Barnett was a senior arts & culture reporter for Ideastream Public Media. He retired in October 2022.