BCALA announces the 2008 Literary Awards Winners

Contacts: Macey Morales/Jennifer Petersen

ALA Media Relations




Joel W. White

ALA Black Caucus

(336) 255-8252

For Immediate Release,

January 14, 2008

BCALA announces the 2008 Literary Awards Winners

PENNSYLVANIA - The Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) has announced the winners of the 2008 BCALA Literary Awards during the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association in Philadelphia. The awards recognize excellence in adult fiction and nonfiction by African American authors published in 2007, including the work of a first novelist and a citation for Outstanding Contribution to Publishing. The recipients will receive the awards during the 2008 Annual Conference of the American Library Association in Anaheim, Calif.

The winner in the fiction category is “New England White,” by Stephen L. Carter (Knopf). “New England White” is an intricately detailed literary thriller that sheds light on the lifestyles of Lemaster and Julia Carlyle, the ultimate power couple; he is president of an Ivy League university in New England, while she is dean of the School of Divinity at the same university. The author reveals all the rich complexities of their lives while giving readers an in-depth view of the social life, politics, power and traditions of these “old money” families, against a backdrop of murder and intrigue. Carter is a law professor at Yale University.

The fiction Honor Book winner is “Cold Running Creek” by Zelda Lockhart (LaVenson Press). This powerful and haunting work explores the lives of three generations of women with African American and Native American mixed heritage. Themes of abandonment, isolation, freedom and redemption are interwoven into a gripping account of America's shameful past during the Pre- and Post-Civil War era. Facing slavery, lynching, rape and murder, Lilly, a half-Black, half-Choctaw woman wrestles with vestiges of her past as she confronts the stark realities of her future. Lockhart is a freelance writer living in North Carolina with her two daughters.

The winner in nonfiction is “Ralph Ellison: A Biography,” by Arnold Rampersad (Knopf). “Ralph Ellison: A Biography” must be characterized as the definitive biography of Ellison. It is both compelling and thought provoking as it provides different insights into the life of one of America's most elusive yet acclaimed writers. Rampersad had free access to Ellison's papers and his close acquaintances. He portrays Ellison as a man vastly different from the main character of his classic novel, “Invisible Man.” Rampersad is the Sara Hart Kimball professor in the Humanities and a member of the Department of English at Stanford University. He lives in Stanford, Calif.

Two nonfiction Honor Books were also selected: “Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas,” by Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher (Doubleday) and “Silent Gesture: The Autobiography of Tommie Smith,” by Tommie Smith with David Steele (Temple University Press).

“Supreme Discomfort” presents a very candid portrait of Clarence Thomas, the controversial Supreme Court justice. Utilizing personal interviews with Thomas' friends and foes, this non-judgmental account includes previously undisclosed information regarding the Anita Hill incident. Merida and Fletcher are reporters for the Washington Post.

“Silent Gesture” highlights Smith's famous gesture of protest at the 1968 Olympics, raising his black-gloved fist as he received his gold medal and how it became a symbolic image that sparked controversy in race relations, politics and sports. Smith also reveals the devastating toll this provocative stance took on his personal life and dispels some of the myths surrounding this act of protest. Smith and his wife divide their time between the Los Angeles area and their home in Stone Mountain, Ga. Steele is a sports columnist for the Baltimore Sun.

The recipient of the First Novelist Award is Chantal Ellen for “The Rise: Where Neighbors Are Sometimes More” (Lion's Den Publishing). This debut novel skillfully portrays the lives of neighbors in a high rise apartment complex offering a spirited depiction of urban living and a dynamic portrait of Washington, D.C. This compelling first person narrative intertwines the personal dramas of the tenants as seen through the watchful eyes of the old guard stationed by the front door. Ellen is an attorney in Washington, D.C.

The Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation is presented to Deborah Willis for “Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits,” (Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture). One hundred and fifty years of well-known African American lives are preserved through remarkable and stunning photographs that evoke a wide range of emotions. The photographs are accompanied by a scholarly text. Willis is professor of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.

Members of the BCALA Literary Awards Jury are: John S. Page, chair, University of the District of Columbia; Joel W. White, vice chair, Forsyth County Public Library, N.C.; Gladys Smiley Bell, Hampton University; Karen B. Douglas, Duke University Law Library; Carolyn L. Garnes, Library consultant, Atlanta; and Ernestine L. Hawkins, East Cleveland Public Library.