2011 BCALA Literary Awards

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. announces the winners of the 2011 BCALA Literary Awards during the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association in San Diego, CA. The awards recognize excellence in adult fiction and nonfiction by African American authors published in 2010, including the work of a first novelist, and a citation for Outstanding Contribution to Publishing. The recipients will receive the awards during the 2011 Annual Conference of the American Library Association in New Orleans, LA.

The winner in the Fiction category is Glorious by Bernice L. McFadden (Akashic Books).

McFadden interweaves rich historical details and vivid imaginative fiction in this riveting multi-faceted novel. Easter Venetta Bartlett, a fictional Harlem Renaissance writer, takes the reader on a journey from the Jim Crow South to the Harlem Renaissance and finally the Civil Rights movement. She battles racial oppression, betrayal, triumphs with success and ultimately finds redemption. Glorious is a brilliantly written novel and is destined to become a classic. Bernice L. McFadden is a critically acclaimed novelist and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The winner in the Non-fiction category is The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore (Random House). Honor Books for Non-fiction were also selected: In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance by Wilbert Rideau (Alfred A. Knopf) and John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard (University of Georgia Press).

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates explores the importance of family, circumstance, opportunity, and its impact on African American male identity in urban America. Wes Moore provides an in-depth look into the journey of two African American males who happen to share the same name, but take very different life paths. In an environment disproportionately affected by poverty, a failing educational system, fatherlessness, and the rise of drug culture, this book raises the question of what does it take to positively impact the lives of young African American males? Equipped with a resource guide in its’ final pages, this book is an essential read for those who champion the critical influence of adults in young people’s lives. Wes Moore is a Rhodes Scholar, former White House Fellow, combat veteran of Afghanistan and he works as an investment professional in New York City.

Sentenced to death row for the murder of a white woman at the age of nineteen, Wilbert Rideau spent forty-four years at the Louisiana State Penitentiary also known as Angola and nicknamed “The Farm”, famed for brutality, riots, escape, and murder. His memoir, In the Place of Justice, graphically and poignantly exposes his life in a place of “living hell” and his journey toward rehabilitation as a prison journalist. A saga of determination, transformation, personal integrity and redemption, his triumph over adversity is worthy of recognition and to be shared as a lesson learned. Wilbert Rideau lives in Louisiana and works as a consultant for the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project.

John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism delves into the life and times of an enigmatic figure considered the spiritual father of the Black Arts Movement. Killen’s life and political activism through literature are presented against a mosaic of other more well-known figures including Paul Robeson, W. E. B. Du Bois, Malcolm X and many others. Gilyard presents a well researched portrayal of Killens as novelist, teacher, essayist and founding chair of the Harlem Writers Guild. This is the first biography of John Oliver Killens and a significant contribution to the understanding of his influence as an African American writer activist. Keith Gilyard presently serves as Distinguished Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University.

The recipient of the First Novelist Award is Dolen Perkins-Valdez for Wench (HarperCollins).

Perkins-Valdez captures the complexities of the relationships between enslaved women and their masters in her debut novel Wench. The story centers around a historical resort in Ohio, where southern slave owners were said to have vacationed with their enslaved mistresses. Wench tells the story of four women whose friendship is forged by pain, yet sustained by their love for their children and the hope of freedom. Perkins-Valdez has written an engaging and thought-provoking novel which examines another aspect of complicated relationships resulting from slavery. Dolen Perkins-Valdez teaches creative writing at the University of Puget Sound and divides her time between Washington, DC and Seattle, WA.

For excellence in scholarship, the BCALA Literary Awards Committee presents the Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation to Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man by Harold Battiste Jr. and Karen Celestan (The Historic New Orleans Collection).

Unfinished Blues is a memoir detailing Harold Battiste’s life and career as a musician, composer, producer, arranger, and educator while championing New Orleans jazz for more than fifty years. Lavishly illustrated with personal photographs it promotes and preserves the influence of music on Louisiana culture and heritage. This book is the first of the Louisiana Musician’s Biography Series. Harold Battiste currently resides in New Orleans.

Members of the BCALA Literary Awards Jury are: Gladys Smiley Bell, Hampton University; Karen B. Douglas, Duke University Law Library; Makiba Foster, Washington University in St. Louis; Carolyn Garnes, Library Consultant, Atlanta, GA; Ernestine Hawkins, East Cleveland Public Library; John Page, University of the District of Columbia; and Joel W. White, Durham (NC) County Library.

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