Category Archives: Award

How is African American Literature Doing?

For those in the business of Black books here in America, this is a common question; “How is African American Literature Doing?”  Some find the question difficult to answer.  I don’t, because the answer is simple; African American Literature doing very well!

National Book Award Medals2017, 2016, and 2015 were terrific years for African American books.  The National Book Awards and The Pulitzer Prize honored more African American writers than any three year period before—and 2017 isn’t over yet.

Despite the lack of coverage by mainstream media, the Institutions that have historically honored African American writers have not let up; the Carter G. Woodson Award, Coretta Scott King Award, Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Phillis Wheatley Book Award, NAACP Image Award, and Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence are a few of the more popular awards that recognize great Black literature.

Some of the largest and most active book clubs do a tremendous job recognizing Black literary talent that might otherwise go unnoticed.  For example, for over a quarter of a century, the Go on Girl! book club has chosen excellent books for their reading list which is enjoyed by the hundreds of readers that make up their national book club. Even smaller clubs have a meaningful impact on helping to promote and raise awareness of Black writers.

Relatively newer entities like the African Americans on the Move Book Club and the African American Literary Awards Show are having a keen impact on Black Books by increasing the level of excitement surrounding Black books with their national award shows which recognize not just Black books, but publishing professionals as well.

Yahdon Israel’s #literaryswag and Glory Edim’s Well-Read Black Girl (#WRBGchat) are just of couple of folks introducing a younger crop of readers to Black books using social media as a primary tool.

There are scores of independent bookstores and online booksellers who continue to do the work of connecting readers with the books they will enjoy.

I have just introduced a new section on AALBC.com which highlights The Most Critically Acclaimed Books. This section of the site aggregates all of the books published that have earned multiple honors.  The books are listed across all genres, by year, and represent the best of the best.

The screen shot below shows below an example of one of the most critically acclaimed books of 2015, Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Among many accolades, Between The World And Me won a 2015 National Book Award, won an NAACP Image Award, was a finalist for a 2016 Pulitzer Prize, is a 7 time AALBC.com bestselling book, and was selected for 2 prominent Book Club’s reading lists, making it one of the most of the most acclaimed books published in the 21st century.

Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I hope readers are able to use this growing list of books to discover some terrific reads they may have missed.

Of course, with the near monopoly of Amazon and the lack of platforms who highlight African American literature, the business of Black book’s is struggling, but the literature itself is doing quite well.

It is reasonable to argue that African American literature would be doing even better if the businesses that supported the literature were thriving.  Indeed, this is an argument that I make on a daily basis.  Good, potentially great, writers aren’t being published.  The excellent books which are are being published are failing to reach their audience.

With more and stronger independent booksellers, readers would have less difficulty discovering the great reads.  With more and stronger periodicals and websites writing critical reviews of African American books, readers would have less difficulty separating the wheat from the chaff.

To compound matters, the booksellers and publications that survive and want to support Black literature are not utilized or supported sufficiently to be as effective as they can be.

As a result, it is not unusual for an avid reader to say, “there are simply not enough good books being published.”  Again, this speaks not to a dearth quality literature, but inefficiencies in the Black book ecosystem.

It is AALBC.com’s mission to celebrate Black literature and to address the weaknesses in the black book ecosystem.  Will you help me?


Learn what motivated this article.

Troy Johnson: Literary Activist of the Year 2017

Troy Johnson Literary Activist of the Year 2017

On June 10, 2017, I had the fortune of being honored with the Literary Activist of the Year Award, which was presented to me during a terrific ceremony at the EpiRiverside Center in Austell, Georgia.  The awards ceremony was hosted by AAMBC (African Americans on the Move Book Club). Fellow nominees, in the Literary Activist category, included Malaika AderoCurtis Bunn, Jeff Friday, and Lasheera Lee.

It really was a wonderful ceremony. There was entertainment, including live musical performances, spoken word, and even comedy. Poet, Nikki Giovanni honored with the Maya Angelou Lifetime Achievement Award.  Writer Teri Woods was also honored for her impact in Urban Fiction.

Most of my time is spent behind a screen tapping away at a keyboard. It is not glamorous work and 95% of it takes place behind the scenes in isolation.  It is neither glamorous or very lucrative, so I truly appreciate the times when my effort is recognized as important and worthy of celebration.

My hat goes off to Tamika Newhouse, founder of the AAMBC Literary Awards, for doing more than her part to celebrate Black writers and the professionals who support them.

Poet Nikki Giovanni and AALBC.com Founder Troy Johnson

with Poet Nikki Giovanni

with fellow Nominee, Malaika Adero

The Complete List of Winners

Literary Activist
Winner: Troy Johnson

Book Club of the Year
Winner: 556 Book Chicks

Publisher of the Year
Winner: St. Martins Press

Male Author of the Year
Winner: Marc Lamont Hill

Female Author of the Year
Winner: Mercy B.

Non- Fiction/Self Help Book of the Year
Winner: Around the Way Girl by Tarajee P. Henson and Denene Millner

Angie Martinez My Voice: A Memoir by Angie Martinez
Winner: I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayai

Magazine of the Year
Winner: Essence

Breakout Author of the Year
Winner: Dedra Allen

Independent Digital Publisher of the Year
Winner: Shan Presents

Street Lit Writer of the Year
Winner: K’wan

Urban Book of the Year
Winner: The Perfect Find by Tia Williams

Romance Author of the Year
Winner: Mercy B.

Screenwriter of the Year
Winner: Armani Martin

Reader’s Choice Award
Winner: Mz. Lady P.

eBook of the Year
Winner: St. Pierre Boyz: All is Fair in Love and War by Mesha Mesh and Mz. Lady P.

Christian Fiction Author of the Year
Winner: Kimberla Lawson Roby

Editor of the Year
Winner: Vanessa K. De Luca

Vanguard of Urban Media
Winner: Blavity

Motion Picture of the Year
Winner: Secrets

Blogger of the Year
And the winner Christina S. Brown “Love Brown Sugar”

 

Black Writers Dominate the 2017 Pulitzer Prizes

Tyehimba Jess, Hilton Als, Colson Whityehead and LYnn Nottage. Black writers winners of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize

Back in January of this year, I took the time to try to figure out how many Black writers have won Pulitzer Prizes in the six “Letters and Drama” categories; Biography/Autobiography, Fiction, General Non-Fiction, History, Poetry, and Drama.  The results were spectacularly dismal.

The award was first bestowed in 1917.  The first award was not given to a Black person until 1950! Gwendolyn Brooks was the first to win for her book of poetry Annie Allen.  Almost another three decades would go by before another Black writer, James Alan McPherson would win for his novel, Elbow Room in 1978.

As far as I can tell, no Black writer has ever won for General Non-fiction. Only one writer Ta-Nehisi Coates was ever nominated in the category, for the spectacularly successful, Between the World and Me.

Up until 2016, only 19 Black writers have won Pulitzer Prizes during the first century the award was given.  However this year, three Black writers have won half of the awards in given in the Letters and Drama categories.  Given the history of the award, it is like lightning striking not twice but three times.

In fact, novelist and critic Hilton Als won the Award for Criticism.  I did not research the history of the other 18 categories for which Pulitzer Prizes are awarded.  The other categories deal mostly with journalism and reporting; I suspect that would be an interesting and revealing exercise to review those categories too.

I’d be the first to argue that the Black community does not need the validation of Pulitzer Prize Board to substantiate our work.  Indeed, given the history of the award, it is not expected either.  However, there have been substantive changes in the awards in recent years.  This is the first time three Black writers have won in these categories in a single year. Of the total 22 awards given to Black writers, almost half were given in the last 10 years.  This is a positive trend.

So while we do not need the award to know our writing deserves merit, it is, of course, welcomed when our literary merit is acknowledged and celebrated by the broader community.   In additional to the $10,000 monetary award, these writers will enjoy even greater success with better book advances and more lucrative speaking gigs.  This is America and awards like the Pulitzer help authors achieve financial success—a benefit denied so many talented Black writers.

AALBC.com congratulates all the winners of Pulitzer Prizes in the Letters and Drama categories:

Fiction
Colson Whitehead for his novel Underground Railroad

“For a distinctive work that melds performance art with the deeper art of poetry to explore collective memory and challenge contemporary notions of race and identity.”

Poetry
Tyehimba Jess for his book Olio

“For a smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.”

Drama
Lynn Nottage for her play Sweat

“For a nuanced yet powerful drama that reminds audiences of the stacked deck still facing workers searching for the American dream.”