'Hidden Figures' Author Among 2017 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award Winners

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For over eight decades, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award has honored some of America’s top writers for their contributions to understanding racism and promoting diversity.  Past honorees include Toni Morrison, August Wilson, and Martin Luther King Jr.  Anisfield-Wolf jury chair Henry Louis Gates, Jr. announced the 2017 winners of one of the country’s most prestigious literary awards Thursday night in Cleveland.

The honoree for non-fiction is Margot Lee Shetterly for Hidden Figures, which tells the story of the previously little-known African American women whose mathematical expertise literally helped get the American space program off the ground in the late 1950s and early 60s.  Shetterly’s book was recently made into a popular motion picture.

Two other Anisfield-Wolf winners also deal with history, but with a bit of poetic license.  In his book Olio, writer Tyehimba Jess blends the stories of African American entertainers from over a century ago with song lyrics, interviews and passages of poetry to weave a commentary about black performers and popular culture. Another one of the 2017 fiction honorees uses real historical figures to tell a personal story about the Chinese-American experience.  Peter Ho Davies’ novel The Fortunes is a reflection on how Chinese immigrants struggled to establish themselves in their new country while battling stereotypes in the workplace and the media.

The other fiction award-winner explores issues of international terrorism.  Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs considers the personal impact of a car bomb blast from the perspective of the perpetrators and the victims.

All of the 2017 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners will be recognized in a ceremony at the State Theater in Cleveland on September 7.

Chilean-American writer Isabel Allende will also be honored for her lifetime achievement as a novelist and advocate for the rights of women and girls over a 35-year literary career.

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