Ohio poet and two fiction writers among 2023 Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards winners
Two fiction writers, an Ohioan and an icon for desegregating schools are part of this year’s class of Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners.
It’s the 88th year for the Cleveland-based national literary prize that honors writers that dedicate their work to issues of racism, discrimination and diversity.
“No other jury in the world would pick these books because the remit is to look for the best books each year that explore the rich diversity of human’s cultures and confront racism,” Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards Manager Karen Long said. “The books do talk to each other and the authors form a cohort.”
Geraldine Brooks – 'Horse'
The first of two fiction winners this year, this novel bounces between points of view from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries to tell the story of Lexington, a record-breaking thoroughbred racehorse and the Black equestrians who trained Lexington on behalf of their owners, who made a lot of money from Lexington’s success.
“She didn’t want to just sit in the past,” Long said. “There’s an interesting echo between the centuries.”
Lan Samantha Chang – 'The Family Chao'
The other winner for the fiction category takes place in small town Wisconsin and tells the story of a Chinese American family whose restaurant becomes the hot topic of the town’s rumor mill. The father of the Chao family dies, believed to have been murdered, and not only do his sons deal with figuring out who killed their father they also deal with figuring out their racial identities as ABC – American-born Chinese.
“She divides the book into two sections. Part One: They See Themselves…and the second section: The World Sees Them. It’s the action when the patriarch is discovered dead and a murder trial ensues for the oldest son,” Long said.
Saeed Jones – 'Alive at the End of the World'
The winner for poetry moved from New York to Columbus in 2019. Jones narrates his second poetry collection using verse, prose and other poetic tactics to share with readers the everyday thoughts of this queer Black man, who spends every day haunted by white supremacy. The 46-poem book has some humor, some wit and some apocalyptic feelings.
“This year we’re exceptionally happy to have an Ohioan. It’s been a while,” Long said. “He’s thoughtful and soulful and tenaciously honest.”
Matthew F. Delmont – 'Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad'
The nonfiction winner tells the story of the more than one million Black Americans who helped deliver the victory of World War II but found their fight against fascism didn’t help to end the racism they faced as civilians at home.
“Every year there’s a history within the Anisfield-Wolf canon, and every year it’s an invitation to blow your mind about what you don’t know that you should know and this year is no exception,” Long said.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault – Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
Author, journalist, civil rights icon – take your pick when identifying this year’s Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award Winner. Hunter-Gault worked for several national journalism organizations, including NPR, PBS and CNN – and she won several awards along the way. She also fought for proper media representation for racialized communities in her newsrooms, including establishing the Harlem bureau at the New York Times. Before the impressive journalism resume, Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes became the first-ever Black students at the University of Georgia in 1961.
“She arrives and white people lose their minds. There’s taunts. There’s vandalism. There is a riot with tear gas outside her dorm room,” Long said. “There’s no denying that she changed the course of the country before she was 20-years-old."
The 88th Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Award ceremony will take place on Thursday, September 28, at the Maltz Performing Arts Center in Cleveland.