The Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award
This week I make my journey to D.C. for the Hurston/Wright Foundation’s Writer’s Week. Before I depart, I wanted to leave you all with a little information about the fiction authors who have been nominated for their Legacy Award. There are actually a total of 18 authors who were nominated for awards in categories which also include poetry and non-fiction. Learn more…
As I depart, I present you with this year’s fiction nominees, along with summaries of their books. Based on this list, I hope someone finds a new novel that sparks their interest. Surprisingly, I’ve only heard of two of these authors and am only familiar with one of these books. Shame on me, right?
Dominion by Calvin Baker– Dominion tells the story of the Merian family who, at the close of the seventeenth century, settle in the wilderness of the Carolinas. Jasper is the patriarch, freed from bondage, who manages against all odds to build a thriving estate with his new wife and two sons — one enslaved, the other free. For one hundred years, the Merian family struggles against the natural (and occasionally supernatural) world, colonial politics, the injustices of slavery, the Revolutionary War and questions of fidelity and the heart. Footed in both myth and modernity, Calvin Baker crafts a rich, intricate and moving novel, with meditations on God, responsibility, and familial legacies. While masterfully incorporating elements of the world’s oldest and greatest stories, the end result is a bold contemplation of the origins of America.
All Aunt Hagar’s Children by Edward P. Jones – Edward P. Jones, a prodigy of the short story, returns to the form that first won him praise in this new collection of stories, All Aunt Hagar’s Children. Here he turns an unflinching eye to the men, women, and children caught between the old ways of the South and the temptations that await them in the city, people who in Jones’s masterful hands emerge as fully human and morally complex. With the legacy of slavery just a stone’s throw behind them and the future uncertain, Jones’s cornucopia of characters will haunt readers for years to come.
Nowhere Is a Place by Bernice McFadden – In Nowhere Is a Place, [Bernice McFadden] spins a fully realized and memorable portrait of a young woman on a journey of self-discovery. Sherry has struggled all her life to understand who she is, where she comes from, and, most importantly, why her mother slapped her cheek one summer afternoon. The incident has haunted Sherry, and it causes her to dig into her family’s past. Like many family histories, it is fractured and stubbornly reluctant to reveal its secrets; but Sherry is determined to know the full story. In just a few days’ time her extended family will gather for a reunion, and Sherry sets off across the country with her mother, Dumpling, to join them. What Sherry and Dumpling find on their trip is far more important than a scenic site here and there- it is the assorted pieces of their family’s past. Pulled together, they reveal a history of amazing survival and abundant joy.
Jump at the Sun by Kim McLarin – Grace Jefferson is an educated and accomplished modern woman, a child of the Civil Rights dream, and she knows it well. But after a series of rattling personal transitions, she finds herself in a new house in a new city and in a new career for which she feels dangerously unsuited: a stay-at-home mom. Caught between the only two models of mothering she has ever known — a sharecropping grandmother who abandoned her children to save herself and a mother who sacrificed all to save her kids — Grace struggles to embrace her new role, hoping to find a middle ground. But as the days pass and the pressures mount, Grace begins to catch herself in small acts of abandonment — speeding up on neighborhood walks, closing doors with the children on one side and her on the other — that she fears may foretell a future she is powerless to prevent. Or perhaps it’s a future she secretly seeks. Finish this summary…
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – In her masterly, haunting new novel,[Adichie] recreates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria during the 1960s. With the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Adichie weaves together the lives of five characters caught up in the extraordinary tumult of the decade. Fifteen-year-old Ugwu is houseboy to Odenigbo, a university professor who sends him to school, and in whose living room Ugwu hears voices full of revolutionary zeal. Odenigbo’s beautiful mistress, Olanna, a sociology teacher, is running away from her parents’ world of wealth and excess; Kainene, her urbane twin, is taking over their father’s business; and Kainene’s English lover, Richard, forms a bridge between their two worlds. As we follow these intertwined lives through a military coup, the Biafran secession and the subsequent war, Adichie brilliantly evokes the promise, and intimately, the devastating disappointments that marked this time and place.
Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi Wa’Thiong’O – The fictional Republic of Aburiria chronicled in this sprawling, dazzling satirical fable is an exaggeration of sordid African despotism. At the top, a grandiose Ruler with “the power to declare any month in the year the seventh month” and his sycophantic cabinet plan to climb to heaven with a modern-day Tower of Babel funded by the Global Bank; beneath them, a cabal of venal officials and opportunistic businessmen jockey for a piece of the pie; at the bottom are the unemployed masses who wait in endless lines behind every help-wanted sign. Kamiti, an archetypal New Man with two university degrees and no job prospects, sets up shop as a wizard; with the help of Nyawira, member of both an underground dissident movement and a feminist dance troupe, he dispenses therapeutic sorcery to a citizenry that finds witchcraft less absurd than everyday life.
Other authors nominated for Hurston/Wright’s award for debut fiction include Aminatta Forna, Marie-Elena John, and Asali Solomon. And I know I’ve mentioned this before, but Google Book Search allows you to read a good portion of quite a few books online. So if you’re interested in any of the titles mentioned, please do a search and see if they’re worth your while. Happy reading ya’ll.