BCALA announces 2002 Literary Awards Winners

Contact: BCALA Literary Awards Committee


For Immediate Release

January 19, 2002

BCALA announces 2002 Literary Awards Winners

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. (BCALA) announced the winners of the 2002 BCALA Literary Awards during the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association (ALA) in New Orleans. The awards recognize excellence in adult fiction and nonfiction by African American authors published in 2001. BCALA also recognizes a first novelist, as well as a citation for Outstanding Contribution to Publishing. The recipients will receive the awards during the ALA 2002 Annual Conference in Atlanta in June.

The winner in the fiction category is "I Wish I Had a Red Dress" by Pearl Cleage (William Morrow). Cleage artfully depicts the struggles of a widow committed to a professional career of helping women achieve and grow. Readers witness the healing in the protagonist's personal life as she develops the ability to move beyond the past, to trust again and dares to step boldly into the future. Cleage lives in Atlanta.

Fiction Honor Book winners are: "John Henry Days, A Novel" by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday), "Plain Brown Wrapper: An Alex Powell Novel" by Karen Grigsby Bates (Avon Books), and "West of Rehoboth" by Alexs D. Pates (William Morrow).

"John Henry Days" immortalizes the eponymous African American folk hero. Centered around the unveiling of a commemorative stamp honoring the former slave, the story combines the dilemmas and dualities of man, machine, history, myth, popular culture and racism. Whitehead lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Bates' "Plain Brown Wrapper: An Alex Powell Novel," offers an intriguing story of a journalist who helps the police solve the murder of a former colleague and friend. Bates lives in Los Angeles and is a columnist for the
Los Angeles Times.

"West of Rehoboth" by Alexs D. Pate is set in the resort town of Rehoboth, Delaware where a twelve year old boy comes of age while trying to make sense of his uncle's sadness and despair. Pate lives in Minneapolis and is an assistant professor of African American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota.

The winner in the Nonfiction category is "Vernon Can Read! A Memoir" by Vernon E. Jordan (PublicAffairs). The Honor Book winners are "On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madame C. J. Walker" by A'Lelia Bundles (Scribner), "Hoop Roots: Basketball, Race and Love" by John Edgar Wideman (Houghton Mifflin), and "American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm" by Gail Lumet Buckley (Random House).

"Vernon Can Read: A Memoir" by Vernon E. Jordan is an impressive and revealing portrait of the charismatic Mr. Jordan and the factors that attributed to his success. He recounts the racism he encountered, his civil rights activism, and his work in organizations devoted to improving the lives of African Americans. Interwoven throughout the work is his recognition of the importance of family, especially his mother, in shaping the foundation that became "the man". Jordan is counsel to the law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld and lives in Washington, D. C.

"On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madame C. J. Walker" by A'Lelia Bundles is an authentic biography of one of America's early entrepreneurs and philanthropists. The biography makes use of resources, including never before seen photographs, in the Walker family collection. The author, who is a great, great granddaughter of Madame C. J. Walker, worked as a network news producer for ABC and NBC news. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

"Hoop Roots: Basketball, Race and Love," John Edgar Wideman's essays form the memoir that reflects growing up in an urban city, poor and Black, strengthened and supported by family, particularly his grandmother and the pickup street game of basketball. Wideman teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

"American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm" by Gail Lumet Buckley documents the contributions of African Americans in the U. S. military. It is an exhaustively researched historical account of an often ignored part of American military history. Buckley lives in New York City.

The recipient of the First Novelist Award is David Anthony Durham for "Gabriel's Story" (Doubleday). Durham offers a fresh perspective of the 1870s American West as the teenage protagonist leaves home on a quest for adventure. An outstanding storyteller, Durham writes a riveting account of the young man's journey. Durham divides his time between the United States and Scotland.

For excellence in scholarship, the BCALA Literary Awards Committee presents the Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation to Donald Bogle for "Primetime Blues: African Americans On Network Television" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Bogle has written a masterful study that chronicles the history of African Americans in television. Bogle teaches at the University of Pennsylvania and the New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and he lives in Manhattan.

Members of the BCALA Literary Awards Jury are: John S. Page, Chair, University of the District of Columbia; Raquel V. Cogell, Vice Chair, Emory University; Yolanda Foster Bolden, Forsyth County Public Library System, East Winston Heritage Center; Joyce Jelks, Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System; Gwendolyn Taylor-Davis, New York Public Library; Virginia Dowsing Toliver, Washington University; and Jamie Turner, Oakland Public Library.

For more information on BCALA and its awards, please go to