Author and MacArthur Fellow Jesmyn Ward Wins 2nd National Book Award for ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

Jesmyn Ward attends the 68th National Book Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on November 15, 2017 in New York City, NY, USA. Photo by Dennis Van Tine/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images) 

MacArthur “Genius” grantee Jesmyn Ward took home the National Book Award prize for Fiction Wednesday, marking the second time she has won the prestigious award.

She took the top prize for her book Sing, Unburied, Sing,” a Mississippi-based family epic that, according to the New York Times, “grapples with race, poverty and the psychic scars of past violence.” She previously won the fiction award in 2011 for her novel “Salvage the Bones.”

Critics have compared her writing to works by greats like Toni Morrison and William Faulkner. In her acceptance speech Ward said that she had received her fair amount of rejections for her subject matter.

“Throughout my career, when I have been rejected, there was sometimes subtext, and it was this: People will not read your work because these are not universal stories,” she told the audience. “I don’t know whether some doorkeepers felt this way because I wrote about poor people or because I wrote about black people or because I wrote about Southerners. As my career progressed and I got some affirmations, I still encountered that mindset every now and again.

Eitherway, she added, many people were able to connect with her characters and stories: “You looked at me, at the people I love and write about, you looked at my poor, my black, my Southern children, women and men — and you saw yourself. You saw your grief, your love, your losses, your regrets, your joy, your hope.“

Earlier this year, she was a recipient of a MacArthur ”genius grant“ from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Source: https://www.essence.com/culture/jesmyn-ward-second-national-book-award-sing-unburied-sing

Colson Whitehead Honored by Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation for his Acclaimed Novel “The Underground Railroad”

Author Colson Whitehead (photo via shelflife.cooklib.org)

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Colson Whitehead recently won the 2017 Hurston/Wright Award for fiction presented by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation. Whitehead was honored for his novel The Underground Railroad (Doubleday, 2016).

The book tells the tale of a slave woman named Cora who escapes from a cotton plantation in Georgia. During her journey North on the Underground Railroad, she kills a young White man who was trying to capture her. The novel has previously won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction, and the Carnegie Medal of Excellence.

A graduate of Harvard University, Whitehead also won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2002. Whitehead has taught at the University of Houston, Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, New York University, Princeton University, Wesleyan University, and been a Writer-in-Residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond, and the University of Wyoming.

Source: Colson Whitehead Honored Once Again for His Novel The Underground Railroad : The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dawoud Bey, Rhiannon Giddens, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Tyshawn Sorey and Jesmyn Ward Receive 2017 MacArthur “Genius” Grants

2017 MacArthur Fellowship Recipients Dawoud Bey, Rhiannon Giddens, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Tyshawn Sorey and Jesmyn Ward (Photo collage via blavity.com)

via blavity.com

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced the winners of this year’s fellowship, better known as the “genius” grant. 24 fellows were chosen, whose professions range immensely across the board. There are historians and musicians, computer scientists and social activists, writers, and architects.

What they all have in common is that each of the recipients has been selected for having “shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction” — and each will receive a $625,000 award from the foundation “as an investment in their potential,” paid out over five years with no strings attached. This year, there were six black recipients of the amazing award:

1. Njideka Akunyili Crosby, 34, painter living in Los Angeles

“Njideka Akunyili Crosby is visualizing the complexities of globalization and transnational identity in works that layer paint, photographic imagery, prints, and collage elements.”

2.  Dawoud Bey, 63, photographer and educator living in Chicago

“Dawoud Bey is using an expansive approach that creates new spaces of engagement within cultural institutions, making them more meaningful to and representative of the communities in which they are situated.” Continue reading

NYU Professor and Novelist Zadie Smith to Receive Langston Hughes Medal for Writing

Zadie Smith (photo via lithub.com)

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Zadie Smith, the acclaimed novelist who is a professor of creative writing at New York University, has been selected to received the Langston Hughes Medal from the City College of New York. The medal honors writers of poetry, drama, fiction, biographies, and critical essays from throughout the Black diaspora. Professor Smith will honored on November 16 at City College’s annual Langston Hughes Festival.

Previous winners of the Langston Hughes Medal include James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Walter Mosley, Gwendolyn Brooks, Octavia Butler, August Wilson, and Edwidge Danticat. Smith is the author of five novels including her latest work Swing Time (Penguin Books, 2016). She also published an essay collection Changing My Mind (Penguin Books, 2009) and writes frequently for the New Yorker magazine and the New York Review of Books.

A native of London, Professor Smith is a graduate of Kings College of the University of Cambridge. She joined the faculty at New York University in 2010.

Source: Zadie Smith of New York University to Receive the Langston Hughes Medal : The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

Hugo Awards 2017: NK Jemisin Wins Best Novel for 2nd Year in a Row

Hugo Award-Winning Author NK Jemisin (photo via theguardian.com)

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A year after NK Jemisin became the first black person to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the African American author has landed the prestigious science fiction prize for the second year running.

Jemisin was announced as the winner of the best novel Hugo at Worldcon in Helsinki, Finland on Friday. She took the prize, which is voted for by fans, for The Obelisk Gate, the follow-up to her Hugo award-winning novel The Fifth Season. The series is set in a world that is constantly threatened by seismic activity, and where the mutants who can control the environment are oppressed by humans.

The New York Times called Jemisin’s writing in the series “intricate and extraordinary”. Hugos administrator Nicholas Whyte said that 3,319 people voted in this year’s award, the third-highest vote total ever and the highest participation in the Hugos for a Worldcon outside the US or UK. “There’s been a very high level of genuine engagement and thoughtful participation,” said Whyte. “People can read into that what they like.”

To read more, go to: Hugo awards 2017: NK Jemisin wins best novel for second year in a row | Books | The Guardian

MOVIES: Watch 1st Trailer for Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time”

by Seth Kelley via variety.com

The first footage from Ava DuVernay’s highly-anticipated “A Wrinkle in Time” is finally here. Disney did the honors during its D23 Expo on Saturday.

DuVernay, the director of “Selma” and the documentary “13th,” among other projects, joined “A Wrinkle in Time” in February 2016. The story follows a group of children as they travel through time and visit strange worlds in order to find their missing father. Storm Reid plays the oldest daughter, Meg Murray, in the movie.

The cast includes Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which, Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit, Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who, and Chris Pine, who all joined the stage to present “Wrinkle” alongside DuVernay and Reid. Zach Galifianakis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw also star, but were not in attendance.

Jennifer Lee, who wrote and co-directed “Frozen” with Chris Buck, is responsible for the film adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic children’s book for Disney.

Earlier in the weekend, Winfrey was honored as a Disney Legend. During her acceptance speech, the legendary actress spoke about the studio’s impact on her life. “Disney, ABC 7 let me be me,” she said of her long-running “Oprah Winfrey Show.”

“A Wrinkle in Time” is expected to hit theaters March 9, 2018. The teaser can be seen above.

To read full article, go to: http://variety.com/2017/film/news/a-wrinkle-in-time-trailer-disney-ava-duvernay-watch-video-1202496728/

Oscar Winner Barry Jenkins to Direct Adaptation of James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Barry Jenkins (photo via variety.com)

by Justin Kroll via variety.com

Barry Jenkins is set to direct an adaptation of “If Beale Street Could Talk” for Annapurna Pictures, marking his first feature film since his hit “Moonlight” won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Original Screenplay.

Based on the novel by James Baldwin, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” the story follows Tish, a newly engaged Harlem woman who races against the clock to prove her lover’s innocence while carrying their child. It is a celebration of love told through the story of a young couple, their families and their lives, trying to bring about justice through love, for love and the promise of the American dream.

Production on the film is expected to start in October. Jenkins, who has wanted to make the film for many years, wrote the screenplay during the same summer sojourn in 2013 when he penned “Moonlight.” Since then, Jenkins has been working with the Baldwin Estate. Baldwin’s sister, Gloria Karefa-Smart, says, “We are delighted to entrust Barry Jenkins with this adaptation. Barry is a sublimely conscious and gifted filmmaker, whose medicine for melancholy impressed us so greatly that we had to work with him.”

“James Baldwin is a man of and ahead of his time; his interrogations of the American consciousness have remained relevant to this day,” Jenkins said. “To translate the power of Tish and Fonny’s love to the screen in Baldwin’s image is a dream I’ve long held dear. Working alongside the Baldwin Estate, I’m excited to finally make that dream come true.”

To read full article, go to: Moonlight Director Barry Jenkins New Movie: If Beale Street Could Talk | Variety