BCALA announces 2003 literary awards winners

Contact: Gwendolyn Taylor Davis

ALA News Release
For Immediate Release
January 26, 2003

BCALA announces 2003 literary awards winners

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) announced the winners of the 2003 BCALA Literary Awards during the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia, Sunday January 27. The awards recognize excellence in adult fiction and nonfiction by African American authors published in 2002, recognition of a first novelist, as well as a citation for outstanding contribution to publishing. The recipients will receive the awards during ALA’s 2003 Annual Conference Toronto, June 19-25.

The winner in the fiction category is “Douglass’ Women” by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Atria/Simon & Schuster). The fiction honor book winners are “Wisdom” by Heather Neff (One World/Ballantine), “P. G. County” by Connie Briscoe (Doubleday), and “You Know Better” by Tina McElroy Ansa (William Morrow).

In “Douglass’ Women,” Jewell Parker Rhodes portrays the full range of emotions and uneasy bond shared by two women. One black and one white, the women tell their stories of loving Frederick Douglass. Rhodes is a professor of creative writing and American literature at Arizona State University and lives in Scottsdale.

“Wisdom” by Heather Neff is a moving story of a woman whose quest to find an estate called Wisdom leads her to discover her own personal legacy. Neff teaches English at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.

“P.G. County” by Connie Briscoe is a satire set in an exclusive enclave of Prince George County, Md. Through the eyes of five very different women, this complex story reveals the secrets of the inhabitants. Briscoe lives in Ellicott City, Md.

“You Know Better” by Tina McElroy Ansa takes three generations of women on a journey to save themselves. With the help of three ghost passengers, the women begin to heal, forgive and ultimately reclaim their family bond. Ansa resides on St. Simons Island, Ga.

The winner in the nonfiction category is “Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies” by Elizabeth McHenry (Duke University Press). The Honor Book winners are “Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems” by Nikki Giovanni (William Morrow), “Gumbo: A Celebration of African American Writing” edited by Marita Golden and E. Lynn Harris (Harlem Moon/Broadway Books and “The Herndons: An Atlanta Family” by Carole Merritt (University of Georgia Press).

“Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies” by Elizabeth McHenry is an examination of the literary societies and the reading practices of African Americans from 1830-1940. McHenry teaches English at New York University.

With “Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems,” Nikki Giovanni cements her place as consummate observer, critic and celebrant of African American life. Whether personal or public, Giovanni’s writings are vital, distinctly political and brazenly honest. Giovanni teaches English at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

“Gumbo: A Celebration of African American Writing,” edited by Marita Golden and E. Lynn Harris, is a mélange of stories crafted by a diverse range of writers reflecting the African American and Black Diaspora experience. This stew is spiced with varied moods, rhythms and styles combining in one collection the strong voices of traditional heritage and new world sensibilities. Golden resides in Washington, D.C., and Harris divides his time between Atlanta and New York.

In the biography “The Herndons: An Atlanta Family,” Carole Merritt narrates the story of Alonzo Herndon, slave, sharecropper, and wealthy entrepreneur. Herndon triumphs over struggles of race and class in turn-of-the-century Atlanta. Merritt is the Director of the Herndon House in Atlanta.

The recipient of the First Novelist Award is Stephen L. Carter for “The Emperor of Ocean Park” (Alfred A. Knopf), an intriguing legal thriller set against the backdrop of society’s African American elite. Rich with political corruption, murder and familial commitment, we witness the complex emergence of a man coming to grips with the realities of his ancestors, struggling to unravel the mysteries of the present, and seeking ways to create a better and brighter future. Carter is a Professor of Law at Yale University and lives near New Haven, Conn.

For excellence in scholarship, the BCALA Literary Awards Committee presents the Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation to Velma Maia Thomas for “We Shall Not Be Moved: The Passage from the Great Migration to the Million Man March” (Crown). In this work, Thomas continues her chronicle of the African American presence in the United States, capturing its achievement and endurance in the 20th century from the victory of Joe Louis and Carol Moseley-Braun to the Great Migration and the Million Man March. Thomas’ account uses striking photographs, reproductions of primary documents and enlivening graphics to bring the emotion of the era home to readers. Thomas lives in Atlanta.

Members of the 2002-2004 Literary Awards Jury are: Gwendolyn Taylor-Davis, Chair, New York Public Library; Virginia Dowsing Toliver, Vice-Chair, Washington University, St. Louis; Yolanda Foster-Bolden, Forsyth County Public Library; Tracie Hall, Hartford (Conn.) Public Library; Phyllis Jackson, Georgia Perimeter College; Karen Lemmons, Howe Elementary School, Detroit, Mich.; and Jamie Turner, Oakland (Calif.) Public Library.