Thursday, March 16, 2006

Roberts-White Anthology Now Out + NBCC Award Winners

TomorrowFrank Léon Roberts sent me the following email today about the wonderful new anthology that he's edited with award-winning poet Marvin K. White:


I just wanted to give you a quick heads-up on the release of my co-edited book with Lambda Literary Award-winning poet Marvin K. White, If We Have To Take Tomorrow: HIV, Black Men & Same Sex Desire. The book has just been published through an important collaboration between the Institute for Gay Men's Health Crisis, AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Black AIDS Institute, Gay Men's Health Crisis, New York State Black Gay Network and the National Black Justice Coalition. A full copy of the book in the pdf format is available at

The book is a collection of essays by some of the brightest new voices in black gay America on the politics of masculinity, sexuality, and black gay identity in the age of HIV/AIDS. It features beautiful essays by Dr. David Malebranche, Thomas Glave, Tim'm T. West, Kenyon Farrow, Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, E. Patrick Johnson, Jason King, Reginald Harris and Charles Stephens, among many others. The photography of Luna Luis Ortiz and Gerald Gaskin is also featured throughout the text. It's a tiny little book with a big heart.

There are several ways for you to order free hardcopies of Tomorrow. First, you can contact Regina Kines at the Black AIDS Institute. You can also contact Patrick "Pato" Herbert at the AIDS Project Los Angeles. In the upcoming weeks, the publication should be available on and at select bookstores in New York City, Los Angeles and throughout the country.

Please take a moment to help "promote" the book by posting information on blogs, websites, and email list-serves. Community based, political publications such as Tomorrow go a long way with the support of people such as you. You can find a write up about the book on my personal weblog here.

Some others links about Tomorrow:

Keith Boykin's comments
The Black AIDS Institute
AIDS Project Los Angeles

Much love,

I know many of the writers in this collection very well, and am really looking forward to their pieces. I also recommend the 2003 anthology that this serves as a follow-up to, Think Again, which was edited by Colin Robinson and Steven G. Fullwood.


DoctorowI've been meaning to post a note about this year's National Book Critics' Circle Awards, which were announced two weeks ago. The NBCCs general stand as the third in a trio of the most prestigious annual US national literary awards given for a particular work (the other two being the Pulitzer Prizes, which also include awards for journalism and are announced in the late spring, and the National Book Awards, which are announced in the fall). Unlike the other two major prizes, they come with no cash awards, their currency being the prestige and honor of receiving the award.

This year's winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction is E. L. Doctorow (photo above, from The Villager), one of the writers I most admire, for his Civil War novel The March. I think this book is one of his best works in years (and among his best ever); he'd previously received the very first NBCC award for fiction, in 1976, for his landmark novel Ragtime, and again in 1989 for Billy Bathgate (another very good novel). He is one of the most acclaimed American fiction writers never to have received a Pulitzer Prize, so perhaps that organization's fiction committee will do the right thing and give him the prize for The March, which unlike some past make-up Pulitzers, definitely deserves it. According to Hillel Italie's article in the Washington Post, Doctorow said

"I've wondered for many years if awards are good for literature....But I find when I'm offered an award I tend to accept it."

The article continued:

"The independent witness of book writers I think provides the deepest and profoundest ... form of communication in our society," said Doctorow, 75, who observed that books are written in silence and read in silence, a "soul to soul" bond unique in the modern world.

The NBCC Poetry award went to Jack Gilbert, a senior poet who received the 1962 Yale Younger Poets Prize and has received numerous other poetic honors over the years. I haven't read his book of poems, but I did read a number of really great books of poetry, by younger poets such as Tyehimba Jess, A. Van Jordan, Richard Siken, and others, that could easily and should have won. (No writer of color has ever received the poetry award, I think.) In the General Nonfiction category, Svetlana Alexievich was lauded for her oral history, Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Disaster, which was published by a small but very distinguished press, Dalkey Archive, in Normal, Illinois. I'm very excited by this award and hope that it means increased sales and recognition for Dalkey, which continues to be one of the main publishers of formally experimental prose from across the world.

The other winners (none of which I've had a chance to read yet) were:
(Autobiography) Francine DuPlessix Gray, Them: A Memoir of My Parents
(Biography) Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
(Criticism) William Logan, The Undiscovered Country: Poetry in the Age of Tin
(Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award) Bill Henderson, founder of the Pushcart Press
(Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing) Wyatt Mason

One other comment stuck out in the Washington Post article, concerning the notoriously finical critic Logan:

Logan, an NBCC criticism finalist in 1999, acknowledged Friday that his demanding assessments have caused hard feelings, saying that one poet threatened to run him over and another poet to threaten assault by hand.

Now that's what I call provoking a reaction! Who said poetry's stakes were low?

He then joked that his wife, herself a poet, was relieved to be married to him because "I could not review her."

Thank the gods for small favors!

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