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BCALA Literary Awards Winners - 2015

Official Literary Seal (Fiction Book)The Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. (BCALA) announces the awards will be presented in San Francisco, CA during ALA’s Annual Conference in June 2015.

First presented at the Second National Conference of African American Librarians in 1994, the BCALA Literary Awards acknowledge outstanding works of fiction and nonfiction for adult audiences by African American authors. Recipients of this award offer outstanding depictions of the cultural, historical or sociopolitical aspects of the Black Diaspora and embody the highest quality of writing style and research methodology, if applicable. Four prizes of $500.00 each for adult books written by African American authors are presented each year: a First Novelist Award, a Fiction Award, a Nonfiction Award, and a Poetry Award. The First Novelist Award is given to recognize an outstanding work by a first time African American fiction writer. Honor Book citations are also awarded in fiction and nonfiction without any accompanying monetary remuneration. Additionally, an Outstanding Contribution to Publishing citation is provided to an author and/or publishing company for unique books that offer a positive depiction of African Americans.

Learn more about the BCALA Literary Awards

1st Novelist Award

Forty Acres: A Novel by Dwayne SmithForty Acres: A Novel
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By Dwayne Alexander Smith

Publication Date: Jul 01, 2014
Page Count: 384
ISBN13: 9781476730530
Imprint: Atria / 37 Ink
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Parent Company: CBS Corporation

A Power List Best-Selling Book!

Winner of a 2015 NAACP Image Award

What if overcoming the legacy of American slavery meant bringing back that very institution? A young black attorney is thrown headlong into controversial issues of race and power in this page-turning and provocative new novel.

Martin Grey, a smart, talented black lawyer working out of a storefront in Queens, becomes friendly with a group of some of the most powerful, wealthy, and esteemed black men in America. He’s dazzled by what they’ve accomplished, and they seem to think he has the potential to be as successful as they are. They invite him for a weekend away from it all—no wives, no cell phones, no talk of business. But far from home and cut off from everyone he loves, he discovers a disturbing secret that challenges some of his deepest convictions…

Martin finds out that his glittering new friends are part of a secret society dedicated to the preservation of the institution of slavery—but this time around, the black men are called “Master.” Joining them seems to guarantee a future without limits; rebuking them almost certainly guarantees his death. Trapped inside a picture-perfect, make-believe world that is home to a frightening reality, Martin must find a way out that will allow him to stay alive without becoming the very thing he hates.

A novel of rage and compassion, good and evil, trust and betrayal, Forty Acres is the thought-provoking story of one man’s desperate attempt to escape the clutches of a terrifying new moral order.

 

Fiction Award

Citizens Creek: A NovelCitizens Creek: A Novel
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by Lalita Tademy

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Atria Books (November 4, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1476753032
ISBN-13: 978-1476753034

“Lalita Tademy has done it again—Citizen's Creek is a deep, touching novel of great historical import and lyrical beauty. At the heart of this book is a headstrong family living both as free blacks as well as Muscogee-speaking Creek. We learn the history of a people: one in constant battle to protect both their lands and freedoms, their loves and loved ones--and ultimately, the quest for their inheritance and birthright as Americans--in the greatest, truest sense of the word.”—ZZ Packer

The New York Times bestselling author of the Oprah Book Club Pick Cane River brings us the evocative story of a once-enslaved man who buys his freedom after serving as a translator during the American Indian Wars, and his granddaughter, who sustains his legacy of courage.Cow Tom, born into slavery in Alabama in 1810 and sold to a Creek Indian chief before his tenth birthday, possessed an extraordinary gift: the ability to master languages. As the new country developed westward, and Indians, settlers, and blacks came into constant contact, Cow Tom became a key translator for his Creek master and was hired out to US military generals. His talent earned him money—but would it also grant him freedom? And what would become of him and his family in the aftermath of the Civil War and the Indian Removal westward?

Cow Tom’s legacy lives on—especially in the courageous spirit of his granddaughter Rose. She rises to leadership of the family as they struggle against political and societal hostility intent on keeping blacks and Indians oppressed. But through it all, her grandfather’s indelible mark of courage inspires her—in mind, in spirit, and in a family legacy that never dies.

Written in two parts portraying the parallel lives of Cow Tom and Rose, Citizens Creek is a beautifully rendered novel that takes the reader deep into a little known chapter of American history. It is a breathtaking tale of identity, community, family—and above all, the power of an individual’s will to make a difference.

 

Honor Books for Fiction

Saint Monkey: A NovelSaint Monkey: A Novel
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by Jacinda Townsend

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company;
Reprint edition (February 2, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0393350827
ISBN-13: 978-0393350821
Product Dimensions: 2 x 5.5 x 8 inches

Fourteen-year-old Audrey Martin, with her Poindexter glasses and her head humming the 3/4 meter of gospel music, knows she’ll never get out of Kentucky—but when her fingers touch the piano keys, the whole church trembles. Her best friend, Caroline, daydreams about Hollywood stardom, but both girls feel destined to languish in a slow-moving stopover town in Montgomery County.

That is, until chance intervenes and a booking agent offers Audrey a ticket to join the booming jazz scene in Harlem—an offer she can’t resist, not even for Caroline. And in New York City the music never stops. Audrey flirts with love and takes the stage at the Apollo, with its fast-dancing crowds and blinding lights. But fortunes can turn fast in the city—young talent means tough competition, and for Audrey failure is always one step away. Meanwhile, Caroline sinks into the quiet anguish of a Black woman in a backwards country, where her ambitions and desires only slip further out of reach.

Jacinda Townsend’s remarkable first novel is a coming-of-age story made at once gripping and poignant by the wild energy of the Jazz Era and the stark realities of segregation. Marrying musical prose with lyric vernacular, Saint Monkey delivers a stirring portrait of American storytelling and marks the appearance of an auspicious new voice in literary fiction.

 

’Til the Well Runs Dry by Lauren Francis-Sharma’Til the Well Runs Dry
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by Lauren Francis-Sharma

Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (April 22, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0805098038
ISBN-13: 978-0805098037
Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.4 inches

Power List Bestselling Book

A glorious and moving multi-generational, multicultural saga that begins in the 1940s and sweeps through the 1960’s in Trinidad and the United States

Lauren Francis-Sharma’s ’Til the Well Runs Dry opens in a seaside village in the north of Trinidad where young Marcia Garcia, a gifted and smart-mouthed 16-year-old seamstress, lives alone, raising two small boys and guarding a family secret. When she meets Farouk Karam, an ambitious young policeman (so taken with Marcia that he elicits the help of a tea-brewing obeah woman to guarantee her ardor), the risks and rewards in Marcia’s life amplify forever.

On an island rich with laughter, Calypso, Carnival, cricket, beaches and salty air, sweet fruits and spicy stews, the novel follows Marcia and Farouk from their amusing and passionate courtship through personal and historical events that threaten Marcia’s secret, entangle the couple and their children in a scandal, and endanger the future for all of them.

’Til the Well Runs Dry tells the twinned stories of a spirited woman’s love for one man and her bottomless devotion to her children. For readers who cherish the previously untold stories of women’s lives, here is a story of grit and imperfection and love that has not been told before.

 

RubyRuby
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by Cynthia Bond

Series: Oprahs Book Club 2.0
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Hogarth (February 10, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0804188246
ISBN-13: 978-0804188241
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches

The newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection

The epic, unforgettable story of a man determined to protect the woman he loves from the town desperate to destroy her, this beautiful and devastating debut heralds the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.

Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby Bell, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city—the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village—all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.

Full of life, exquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, Ruby is a transcendent novel of passion and courage. This wondrous page-turner rushes through the red dust and gossip of Main Street, to the pit fire where men swill bootleg outside Bloom’s Juke, to Celia Jennings’s kitchen, where a cake is being made, yolk by yolk, that Ephram will use to try to begin again with Ruby. Utterly transfixing, with unforgettable characters, riveting suspense, and breathtaking, luminous prose, Ruby offers an unflinching portrait of man’s dark acts and the promise of the redemptive power of love.

 

Nonfiction Award

Visible Man: The Life of Henry Dumas by Jeffrey B. LeakVisible Man: The Life of Henry Dumas
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by Jeffrey B. Leak

Hardcover: 216 pages
Publisher: University of Georgia Press (April 15, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0820328707
ISBN-13: 978-0820328706
Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9 inches

Henry Dumas (1934–1968) was a writer who did not live to see most of his fiction and poetry in print. A son of Sweet Home, Arkansas, and Harlem, he devoted himself to the creation of a black literary cosmos, one in which black literature and culture were windows into the human condition. While he certainly should be understood in the context of the cultural and political movements of the 1960s—Black Arts, Black Power, and Civil Rights—his writing, and ultimately his life, were filled with ambiguities and contradictions.

Dumas was shot and killed in 1968 in Harlem months before his thirty-fourth birthday by a white transit policeman under circumstances never fully explained. After his death he became a kind of literary legend, but one whose full story was unknown. A devoted cadre of friends and later admirers from the 1970s to the present pushed for the publication of his work. Toni Morrison championed him as “an absolute genius.” Amiri Baraka, a writer not quick to praise others, claimed that Dumas produced “actual art, real, man, and stunning.” Eugene Redmond and Quincy Troupe heralded Dumas’s poetry, short stories, and work as an editor of “little” magazines.

With Visible Man, Jeffrey B. Leak offers a full examination of both Dumas’s life and his creative development. Given unprecedented access to the Dumas archival materials and numerous interviews with family, friends, and writers who knew him in various contexts, Leak opens the door to Dumas’s rich and at times frustrating life, giving us a layered portrait of an African American writer and his coming of age during one of the most volatile and transformative decades in American history.

 

Honor Books for Nonfiction

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty CopelandLife in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina
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by Misty Copeland

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Touchstone (March 4, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1476737983
ISBN-13: 978-1476737980
Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches

A Power List Best-Selling Book!

Nominee 2015 NAACP Image Award

In this instant New York Times bestseller, Misty Copeland makes history as the only African American soloist dancing with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. But when she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, anxious thirteen-year-old to become a groundbreaking ballerina.

When she discovered ballet, Misty was living in a shabby motel room, struggling with her five siblings for a place to sleep on the floor. A true prodigy, she was dancing en pointe within three months of taking her first dance class and performing professionally in just over a year: a feat unheard of for any classical dancer. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life (culminating in a highly publicized custody battle), she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams, and find the courage to be one of a kind.

Life in Motion is an insider’s look at the cutthroat world of professional ballet, as well as a moving story of passion and grace for anyone who has dared to dream of a different life.

 

Dorothy Porter Wesley at Howard University: Building a Legacy of Black History by Janet Sims-WoodDorothy Porter Wesley at Howard University: Building a Legacy of Black History
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by Janet Sims-Wood

Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: The History Press (September 2, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1626196443
ISBN-13: 978-1626196445
Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.5 inches

When Dorothy Burnett joined the library staff at Howard University in 1928, she was given a mandate to administer a library of Negro life and history. The school purchased the Arthur B. Spingarn Collection in 1946, along with other collections, and Burnett, who would later become Dorothy Porter Wesley, helped create a world-class archive known as the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center and cemented her place as an immensely important figure in the preservation of African American history. Wesley's zeal for unearthing materials related to African American history earned her the name of "Shopping Bag Lady." Join author, historian and former Howard University librarian Janet Sims-Wood as she charts the award-winning and distinguished career of an iconic archivist.

 

The Oxford Handbook of African American Theology, edited by Anthony B. Pinn and Katie G. CannonThe Oxford Handbook of African American Theology
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edited by Anthony B. Pinn and Katie G. Cannon

Series: Oxford Handbooks
Hardcover: 540 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press (August 1, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0199755655
ISBN-13: 978-0199755653
Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 1.8 x 6.7 inches

African American theology has a long and important history. With modern roots in the civil rights movements of the 1960s, African American theology has gone beyond issues of justice and social transformation to participate in broader dialogues of theological inquiry. The Oxford Handbook of African American Theology brings together leading scholars in the field to offer a critical and comprehensive analysis of this theological tradition in its many forms and contexts.

Using an interdisciplinary approach, this Oxford Handbook examines the nature, structures, and functions of African American Theology. The volume surveys the field by highlighting its sources, doctrines, internal debates, current challenges, and future prospects in order to present key topics related to the wider palette of Black Religion in a sustained scholarly format. This formative collection presents current scholarship on African American Theology and scripture, eschatology, Christology, womanist theology, sexuality, ontology, the global economy, and much more. The contributors represent a diverse set of faith perspectives, adding to the layered discourses within the volume. These essays further important discussions on the pressing debates and challenges that shape black and womanist theologies.

 

Poetry Award

Books of Hours: PoemsBooks of Hours: Poems
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by Kevin Young

Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (March 4, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307272249
ISBN-13: 978-0307272249
Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.4 inches

A decade after the sudden and tragic loss of his father, we witness the unfolding of grief. “In the night I brush / my teeth with a razor,” he tells us, in one of the collection’s piercing two-line poems. Capturing the strange silence of bereavement (“Not the storm / but the calm / that slays me”), Kevin Young acknowledges, even celebrates, life’s passages, his loss transformed and tempered in a sequence about the birth of his son: in “Crowning,” he delivers what is surely one of the most powerful birth poems written by a man, describing “her face / full of fire, then groaning your face / out like a flower, blood-bloom,/ crocused into air.” Ending this book of both birth and grief, the gorgeous title sequence brings acceptance, asking “What good/are wishes if they aren’t / used up?” while understanding “How to listen / to what’s gone.” Young’s frank music speaks directly to the reader in these elemental poems, reminding us that the right words can both comfort us and enlarge our understanding of life’s mysteries.

 

Citation Outstanding Contribution to Publishing

Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian 
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by Ethelene Whitmire

Hardcover: 168 pages
Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition edition (May 1, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0252038509
ISBN-13: 978-0252038501
Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches

The first African American to head a branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL), Regina Andrews led an extraordinary life. Allied with W. E. B. Du Bois, she fought for promotion and equal pay against entrenched sexism and racism. Andrews also played a key role in the Harlem Renaissance, supporting writers and intellectuals with dedicated workspace at her 135th Street Branch Library. After hours she cohosted a legendary salon that drew the likes of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Her work as an actress and playwright helped established the Harlem Experimental Theater.

Ethelene Whitmire's new biography offers the first full-length portrait of Andrews' activism, engagement with the arts of the Harlem Renaissance, and work with the NYPL.


Members of the BCALA Literary Awards Jury

  • Gladys Smiley Bell (Chair), Hampton University
  • Jennifer Baxmeyer, Princeton University
  • Tracy Crawford,Queens Library’s Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center
  • Tiffany Duck, Jefferson-Madison Regional Library
  • Carolyn Garnes, Atlanta, GA;
  • John Page, Washington, D.C.
  • Apryl Price, Florida State University

 

Related Links

Coretta Scott King Author Awards
Presented annually by the American Library Association to honor African-American authors and illustrators who create outstanding books for children and young adults.

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. (BCALA)  Literary Awards
Awards acknowledge outstanding achievement in the presentation of the cultural, historical and sociopolitical aspects of the Black Diaspora.

More BCALA content and conversations on AALBC.com