Namwali Serpell

Namwali Serpell is Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards 2020 winner.

Namwali Serpell was announced an Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards 2020 winner on March 30, 2020.

The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards recognize books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures. They were established by Cleveland poet and philanthropist Edith Anisfield Wolf in 1935, in honour of her father, John Anisfield, and husband, Eugene Wolf, to reflect her family’s passion for issues of social justice. It is the only American book prize focusing on works that address racism and diversity. Some previous winners of the award have been Jesmyn Ward (2018), Marlon James (2015), Junot Diaz (2008), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2007), Colson Whitehead (2000), Nadine Gordimer and Toni Morrison (1988), and Alan Paton (1947)

The panel of judges for 2020 chaired by acclaimed scholar, lecturer, social critic, writer, and editor Henry Louis Gates Jr., included poet Rita Dove, novelist Joyce Carol Oates, psychologist Steven Pinker and historian Simon Schama. They have today announced the award’s winners and they are;

  • Eric Foner for Lifetime Achievement,
  • Ilya Kaminsky, Deaf Republic for Poetry.
  • Charles King, Gods of the Upper Air, Nonfiction
  • Namwali Serpell, The Old Drift, Fiction

Henry Louis Gates Jr. said, “this year, we honour a brilliant, breakout novel that centres Zambia, a book of political poetry 15 years in the making and a riveting history documenting a revolution in Western thought.

On Namwali Serpell’s contribution to world literature, Anisfield-Wolf Juror Rita Dove observed that “the novel is a phenomenal accomplishment, nothing less than a retelling/reimagining of the creation and ‘history’ of Zambia,”. Another juror Simon Schama, called the book “brave and extraordinarily well done.”

The Zambian shared the news on her Twitter saying “[WARNING: UNCOVIDIAL CONTENT! UNCONSCIONABLY GOOD NEWS IN A TIME OF GENERAL CRISIS!] I’m thrilled and moved that The Old Drift has received an @AnisfieldWolf award, which honors “important contributions to our understanding of racism and human diversity.” Thank you, jurors!”

The Anisfield-Wolf winners will be honoured on October 1 in the Connor Palace Theatre in Cleveland, hosted by the Cleveland Foundation and emceed by Jury Chair Gates. The ceremony will be part of the fifth annual Cleveland Book Week slated for Sept. 27-Oct. 4, 2020.

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