The American Book Award

The Before Columbus Foundation announces the
Winners of the Forty-Third Annual
Ceremonies: Sunday, October 9, 2022, from 2:00–4:30 p.m.

Oakland, CA—The Before Columbus Foundation announces the Winners of the Forty-Third Annual AMERICAN BOOK AWARDS. The 2021 American Book Award winners will be formally recognized on  Sunday, October 9, 2022, from 2:00–4:30 p.m., online. 

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The American Book Awards were created to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community. The purpose of the awards is to recognize literary excellence without limitations or restrictions. There are no categories, no nominees, and therefore no losers. The award winners range from well-known and established writers to under-recognized authors and first works. There are no quotas for diversity, the winners list simply reflects it as a natural process. The Before Columbus Foundation views American culture as inclusive and has always considered the term “multicultural” to be not a description of various categories, groups, or “special interests,” but rather as the definition of all of American literature. The Awards are not bestowed by an industry organization, but rather are a writers’ award given by other writers.

2022 American Book Award Winners

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman (Photo: Efrat Kussell)

For nearly the entire War on Terror, Spencer Ackerman has been a national-security correspondent for outlets like The New Republic, WIRED, The Guardian and currently The Daily Beast. He has reported from the frontlines of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. He shared in the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Journalism for Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks to The Guardian, a series of stories that also yielded him other awards, including the Scripps Howard Foundation’s 2014 Roy W. Howard Award for Public Service Reporting and the 2013 IRE medal for investigative reporting. Ackerman’s WIRED series on Islamophobic counterterrorism training at the FBI won the 2012 online National Magazine Award for reporting. He frequently appears on MSNBC, CNN, and other news networks.

Spencer Ackerman
Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump (Viking)

Spencer Ackerman’s Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump reflects the power of witness, truth, and accountability journalism. In an age where fascism is normalized for ratings and the latest outrage bait, Ackerman’s meticulous reporting and blistering analysis forces us to confront 20 years of imperial hubris. He connects the dots and explains how the voracious appetite of a US military-industrial complex paved the road for Trumpism on the graveyard of civil liberties, human rights, and democracy. There is no Trump without 9-11; no Patriot Act and mass surveillance without the demonization of Muslims and immigrants. The horror of today has many mothers from both political parties, who have left behind orphans worldwide.”

— Wajahat Ali

Reign of Terror makes clear that what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, can only be called an atrocity; this isn’t one of those accounts that tries to play down the trauma. But Ackerman also suggests that instead of defining the enemy as the specific terrorist network responsible for the attacks, the George W. Bush administration resorted to “deliberate indecision.” White House lawyers pressed for maximum executive power, while Bush would insist that Muslims weren’t the enemy in one moment and then describe the War on Terror as a “crusade” the next.

— Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

Spencer Ackerman’s brilliant, discerning Reign of Terror initiates the urgent process of truth and reconciliation with the ugly facts of a ‘War on Terror’ that condemned a young 21st century America to the darkness of a surveillance society driven by the militarization of everyday life and dependent upon surveillance capitalism for pervasive monitoring and control of people. Ackerman is at the top of his game, revealing with vivid detail, investigative force, and unswerving moral clarity how the reign of terror rained on us, replacing freedom with fear and neighborliness with suspicion, as it poisoned cherished principles, diminished rights, and weakened democratic institutions. Every citizen and lawmaker yearning for a joyful inclusive democratic future must confront this toxic legacy and its chokehold on our expectations and our politics. That journey begins here with this courageous, necessary book.

— Shoshana Zuboff, author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Esther G. Belin, Jeff Burgland, Connie A. Jacobs, Anthony K. Webster

Esther G. Belin is a Diné multimedia artist and writer, currently a faculty mentor in the Low Rez MFA program at the Institute for American Indian Arts. She graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of California, Berkeley. Her poetry collection From the Belly of My Beauty (1999) won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Her latest collection is Of Cartography: Poems (2017). She is a second-generation off-reservation Native American resulting from the U.S. federal Indian policies of termination and relocation. Her art and writing reflect the historical trauma from those policies as well as the philosophy of Saah Naagháí Bik’eh Hózho, the worldview of the Navajo people.

Jeff Berglund is the Director of Liberal Studies and a Professor of English at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he has worked since 1999. Berglund’s research and teaching focuses on Native American literature, comparative Indigenous film, and U.S. multi-ethnic literature. His books include Cannibal Fictions: American Explorations of Colonialism, Race, Gender, and Sexuality (2006), Sherman Alexie: a Collection of Critical Essays (co-editor, 2016), Indigenous Pop: Native American Music from Jazz to Hip Hop (co-editor, 2016), and Indigenous Peoples Rise Up: the Global Ascendancy of Social Media Activism (co-editor, 2021). In addition to serving as the treasurer of the Association of Studies in American Indian Literature, Berglund is a member of the Australian-based Forum for Indigenous Research Excellence (FIRE), The Working Group on Emergent Indigenous Identities, and NAU’s partnership with DINÉ (Diné Institute for Navajo Nation Educators) and the Yale National Initiative.

Connie A. Jacobs is the author of The Novels of Louise Erdrich: Stories of Her People (2001) and a co-editor with Greg Sarris and James Giles of Approaches to Teaching the Works of Louise Erdrich (2004). Her forthcoming publications include Literary Sovereignty: Essays on the Continuing Indigenous Literary Aesthetic, co-edited with Debra K.S. Barker, and Louise Erdrich’s Justice Trilogy: Cultural and Critical Contexts, co-edited with Nancy J. Peterson. She is Professor Emerita at San Juan College.

Anthony K. Webster is a linguistic anthropologist and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. He also has affiliations with the Native American and Indigenous Studies Program and the Department of Linguistics. His work focuses primarily on verbal artistry, especially among Navajos. He’s been doing this since 1997. He is the author of Explorations in Navajo Poetry and Poetics (2009), Intimate Grammars: An Ethnography of Navajo Poetry (2015), and The Sounds of Navajo Poetry: A Humanities of Speaking (2018). With Paul V. Kroskrity, he is co-editor of The Legacy of Dell Hymes: Ethnopoetics, Narrative Inequality, and Voice (2015). He lives in southern Illinois.

Esther G. Belin, Jeff Burgland, Connie A. Jacobs, Anthony K. Webster
The Diné Reader: An Anthology of Navajo Literature (University of Arizona Press)

The Diné Reader: An Anthology of Navajo Literature opens with the writings of Blackhorse Mitchell whose first novel Miracle Hill was published in 1967. This was the year I first discovered Native writers, as a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Blackhorse Mitchell had been a student there, as was Grey Cohoe. There were many Navajo student poets who published in the yearly literature publication funded by Vincent Price specifically highlighting the writing of IAIA students. Navajo literature was and is predominately oral, with classic texts like The Blessing Way that have profoundly influenced American literature, including the Kiowa writer and poet N. Scott Momaday who would be honored with a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for his novel House Made of Dawn. The title is a direct reference from Navajo literature. The Diné Reader confirms the prominent and influential position that Diné writings hold in American letters today.  

This valuable collection holds the poetry, prose, and thoughts of several generations of Diné, or Navajo, writers, with numerous foundational heavy hitters in literature alongside emerging writers and fresh voices. I appreciate seeing Gloria Emerson here. She is one of the contemporary matriarchs of philosophical thought and cultural continuance. She was a force for Navajo language and assisted in language being seen as necessary to cultural flourishing. Nia Francisco was one of the first of the poets that was around in my generation as we came up as poets in New Mexico. The two Navajo Nation poet laureates, Luci Tapahonso and Laura Tohe, feature in this collection. Both were students at the University of New Mexico in the 70’s, a time of Native rights movements and the discussion and implementation of tribal nation sovereignty. Liz Woody was a student at the Institute of American Arts, as it moved from being a Bureau of Indian Affairs high school to a full-fledged arts college. She was honored recently as the State of Oregon’s poet laureate. Rex Lee Jim’s first book was published by Princeton University Press, in Navajo. He has continued as a cultural leader. You will also find so many of the younger generations of poets who have established Native poets as important artists to watch in the larger American culture. They include Esther Belin, Sherwin Bitsui, Orlando White, Bojan Louis, Tacey Atsitty, and Jake Skeets. Many have won major American literary prizes and write bilingually.

 Every one of these writers and poets mark a fresh era of thought and becoming.

This anthology proves that Diné writers are at the heart of not just contemporary Native literature but the canon of American literature. These writers are defining their own literature, which means defining the future as they stand as the next generations of literary ancestors. They are being their own cultural critics and are moving away from the generic term of being a Native or Native American writer. This finely edited groundbreaking collection is essentially a statement of sovereignty and proof of continuance of the songs and thoughts of their ancestors. It is destined to become a classic of American and world literature. 

— Joy Harjo, Mvskoke Nation, September 1, 2022

Emma Brodie

Emma Brodie

Emma Brodie has worked in book publishing for a decade, most recently as an Executive Editor at Little, Brown’s Voracious imprint. She graduated from the Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars program, and is a longtime contributor to HuffPost and a faculty member at Catapult, Co. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and their dog, Freddie Mercury.

Emma Brodie
Songs in Ursa Major (Knopf)

In this spirited and fearless debut, Emma Brodie gets right to the heart of the matter: what—and who—will we sacrifice for art? Who has power over the stories we tell? What secrets will we keep for the people who love us? Like a perfect summer song, Songs in Ursa Major breathes new life into a familiar tune and will work its way into your heart and not let go.

— Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Brodie works with big themes — individuation, mental illness, legacy, self-destruction and redemption — but her touch is lighter than an onshore breeze. Little surprise that Village Roadshow has scooped the novel up for development as a movie… You can tell when a novelist truly loves her heroes and despises her villains… Ursa Major is plotted so tightly, its characters so vividly rendered, that you barely notice the author’s thumb on the scale.

— Chris Vognar, Los Angeles Times

Brodie captures the early-’70s singer/songwriter scene in intricate detail, chronicling the ups and downs of the lives of working musicians—the grind of touring, the strain of recording, the joy of performing. But it’s also a novel about the inner life of a talented, unique woman determined to maintain her identity, even if it means sacrificing her chance at stardom.

— Nanette Donohue, The News-Gazette

The author is adept at creating her characters realistically, with their flaws highlighted in contrast to great talent; real people with contrasting pain and joy expressed, often simultaneously. We look forward to reading more creative works by this author in the future.

— Marie Anderson 

Daphne A. Brooks

Daphne A. Brooks (Photo by Mara Lavitt)

Daphne A. Brooks is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of African American Studies, American Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Music at Yale University where she is also the co-founder and co-director of Yale University’s Black Sound & the Archive Working Group. She is the author of Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 (Duke UP 2006), winner of The Errol Hill Award for Outstanding Scholarship on African American Performance from ASTR; Jeff Buckley’s Grace (Continuum, 2005); and Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound (Harvard UP 2021), winner of multiple prizes including the 2021 Museum of African American History Stone Book Award. Brooks has written liner notes to accompany the recordings of Aretha Franklin, Tammi Terrell, Prince, and Nina Simone as well as stories for the New York Times, the Guardian, the NationPitchfork, and other outlets. Brooks is the recipient of a 2022-2023 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2022-2023 New York Public Library Cullman Center Fellowship. While at the Cullman Center, she will continue work on her latest project, a Black feminist counter-history of Porgy and Bess

Daphne A. Brooks
Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound (Harvard University Press)

Daphne A. Brooks explores more than a century of music archives to examine the critics, collectors, and listeners who have determined perceptions of Black women on stage and in the recording studio. How is it possible, she asks, that iconic artists such as Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé exist simultaneously at the center and on the fringe of the culture industry?

Liner Notes for the Revolution offers a startling new perspective on these acclaimed figures—a perspective informed by the overlooked contributions of other Black women concerned with the work of their musical peers. Zora Neale Hurston appears as a sound archivist and a performer, Lorraine Hansberry as a queer Black feminist critic of modern culture, and Pauline Hopkins as America’s first Black female cultural commentator. Brooks tackles the complicated racial politics of blues music recording, song collecting, and rock and roll criticism. She makes lyrical forays into the blues pioneers Bessie Smith and Mamie Smith, as well as fans who became critics, like the record-label entrepreneur and writer Rosetta Reitz. In the twenty-first century, pop superstar Janelle Monae’s liner notes are recognized for their innovations, while celebrated singers Cécile McLorin Salvant, Rhiannon Giddens, and Valerie June take their place as cultural historians.

With an innovative perspective on the story of Black women in popular music—and who should rightly tell it—Liner Notes for the Revolution pioneers a long overdue recognition and celebration of Black women musicians as radical intellectuals.

The most important book on Black music written in the last ten years, Daphne Brooks joins the ranks of Alaine Locke, Eileen Southern, and Albert Murray. 

— Justin Desmangles

Myriam J. A. Chancy 

Myriam Chancy (Photo by N. Affonso)

Myriam J. A. Chancy, Ph.D. is a Guggenheim Fellow and HBA Chair of the Humanities at Scripps College. She is the author of What Storm, What Thunder, a novel on the 2010 Haiti earthquake (HarperCollins Canada/Tin House USA 2021), which was named a “Best Book of 2021,” by NPR, Kirkus, the Chicago Public Library, the New York Public Library, Library Journal, the Boston Globe, Amazon Books & Canada’s Globe & Mail. What Storm, What Thunder was shortlisted for the Caliba Golden Poppy Award, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and longlisted for Brooklyn Public Library Book Prize & the OCM Bocas Prize. Her past novels include: The Loneliness of Angels, winner of the 2011 Guyana Prize in Literature Caribbean Award, for Best Fiction 2010; The Scorpion’s Claw and Spirit of Haiti, shortlisted in the Best First Book Category, Canada/Caribbean region of the Commonwealth Prize, 2004. Her recent writings have appeared in Journal, Electric Literature, Guernica and Room Magazine.

Myriam J. A. Chancy
What Storm, What Thunder (Tin House Books)

When the world literally falls out from under one’s feet, how does one recover? Myriam J.A. Chancy endeavors to unearth the unspeakable, to literally excavate memory so encrypted in trauma that only the most delicate and substantial of tools can achieve. What Storm, What Thunder, presents the reader with a plethora of perspectives, all connected to a powerful and well respected matriarch, Ma  Lou, self-named the “market woman.”

A universally recognized figure, Ma Lou has her finger on the pulse of Port-au-Prince and is witness to the city as it crumbles in front of her, while she is protected by the shelter of the open air market, she has so long been master.  Ma Lou understands the complexities of family relationships and knows how, like dominoes, the impact of one death ripples silently through many seemingly unrelated lives, but in Haiti, “in the span of 45 seconds, one in every fifty” citizens in Port-au-Prince died. This according to Oliver, one of the narratives of a man so bereft by the loss of his three children that his voice is absent for the majority of the book. He is not present for his wife’s suffering; he is not present for the funeral; he is missing.  

As the world crumbles for many, Chancy’s masterful storytelling illuminates a sense of strength and community and with that, a world of individuals connected by more than just tragedy or culture. Each narrative, each voice, is a whole life and also representative of a different facet of day to day life in Port-au-Prince, from mothers and children, to hotel workers, the underground services of sex and drugs, businessfolks, and those who have left to pursue the American dream. Each of the chorus of voices is also intricately connected to the other, like a web, such that the slow unraveling of one strand inevitably impacts another. Conversely, the kindness and strength of the women serve to uphold and propel forward a new sense of community and healing as the city slowly uncovers its dead.

Nothing is rebuilt. There is only the before and after, the recognition of what it is to bury the dead of an unspeakable tragedy that continues to unfold in more and more tragedy. Perhaps this is why this is such a brave book. There is no religion or blame to demand some kind of justice. There is just people and nature. There is abandonment and loss. This is a story that had to be told, despite the fact that there is not really an end, but more an aftermath. In her final narrative Ma Lou aptly states “It was hard to explain later to those who had not been here… But there was no real way to explain. Reality was not more. Time had evaporated. Those others (the dead) were out of harm’s way; they were safe, in the unreal world. Here, life and death were stripped to their bare elements. All that was man-made fell including time, buckled into the sky with nightfall” (297).

Not without hope, Chancy finds a way to bring a sense of closure, if not to the tragedy to the narrative and she so skillfully does this with ritual and a bit of humor.  “The whole place is a cemetery,” narrates Ma Lou who has been holding onto and collecting bones of loved ones, bones which are symbolic of humanity. The remaining women in her family travel to her village of Saut d’Eau, a sacred waterfall. As she is able to find a kind of peace for her own, she closes, “I think of all those bones with no one to claim them, all the bodies found that were thrown into a pit somewhere on the outskirts of the capital, beneath the cleaned-up city, disintegrating, becoming foundation. I realize then that those who died may have been unclaimed, their remains abandoned, but never, never were they unloved.” This book is a love story.  A love story of Haiti and of humanity.

— Karla Brundage 

Francisco Goldman 

Francisco Goldman (Photo by Pia Elizondo)

Francisco Goldman has published five novels and two books of non-fiction. The Long Night of White Chickens was awarded the American Academy’s Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction. His novels have been finalists for several prizes, including, twice, the Pen/Faulkner Prize. The Ordinary Seaman was a finalist for The International IMPAC Dublin literary award. The Divine Husband was a finalist for The Believer Book Award. The Art of Political Murder won The Index on Censorship T.R. Fyvel Book Award and The WOLA/Duke Human Rights Book Award. The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle, published in 2013, was named by the LA Times one of 10 best books of the year and received The Blue Metropolis “Premio Azul” 2017. His novel Say Her Name won the 2011 Prix Femina étranger. His books have been published in 16 languages.

Francisco Goldman
Monkey Boy (Grove Press)

Francisco Goldman’s Monkey Boy is an enrapturing novel, a Proustian trip through one man’s life and memory, as well as the violent history of colonization that binds the Americas. Goldman’s altar ego, Francisco (Frankie) Goldberg, is, like him, descended from a Jewish American father and a Guatemalan mother. On a train trip from New York to Boston, Goldberg reflects on his life, his erotic affairs, his parents, and his profession, journalism, which has taken him to Mexico and Guatemala and allowed him to witness and reflect on the results of U.S. intervention in those countries.

Perhaps the novel could be called autobiographical fiction, but it also exists somewhere in the realm of historical fiction, as filtered through a deeply personal and idiosyncratic narrative that is beguiling in its voice. That voice, or those voices, of Goldman the author and Goldberg the narrator pull the reader in the way a warm bath does, until one is completely immersed up to the neck or perhaps the ears, in no way wishing to leave. And yet what these voices convey is how traumatic history ripples through time, individuals, and families, crossing national borders but also crossing into memory.

The title, we learn, is the cruel nickname given to Goldberg as a boy by bullies. Monkey Boy refers to his physique but of course also conjures up a lamentable and grotesque racism which is trans-American in its scope. The abuses heaped on Goldberg by the bullies echo with the harm that the United States has inflicted on its southern neighbors. Goldman and Goldberg weave back and forth between this often horrific history and the equally devastating trauma inflicted by one person on another—in this case, the abuse heaped on Goldberg by his father, disappointed with his life and his son.

 Goldberg emerges somewhat intact from these intersections of memory and family, history and tragedy, or as intact as any of us might be. He is flawed, emotionally stunted, limited in his ability to forge human connections, and yet he is also an astute observer of the people, places, and politics around him. He knows how to build a mysterious edifice of sentences and stories from the rubble of his life, and for all that he has suffered, and for all that he might have made his loved ones suffer, his narrative in Monkey Boy is something of a salvation. In the end, Goldberg’s most finely observed subject is himself, rendered with empathy and skepticism, intimacy and distance, tenderness and resignation. He is all grown up but he is still “Monkey Boy,” reminding himself and us that childhood is something many of us can never leave behind completely. And yet, from that welter of confusion and pain and yearning and hope, there comes life in all its beauty and horror. And the possibility of art, something new and renewed, a novel such as this.

— Viet Thanh Nguyen

Zakiya Dalila Harris

Zakiya Dalila Harris (Photo: Nicole Mondestin)

Zakiya Dalila Harris spent nearly three years in editorial at Knopf/Doubleday before leaving to write her debut novel The Other Black Girl. Prior to working in publishing, Zakiya received her MFA in creative writing from The New School. Her essays and book reviews have appeared in Cosmopolitan, Guernica, and The Rumpus. She lives in Brooklyn.

Zakiya Dalila Harris
The Other Black Girl: A Novel (Atria Books)

Zakiya Dalila Harris exposes the embargo against Black readers by New York publishers who, in terms of diversity, are decades behind the south. In her brilliant work The Other Black Girl, she demonstrates how the few Black editors have to engage in a battle royal over which token editor will outlast another. The result is fierce competition. The range of books about the Black experience is limited. Elizabeth Nunez, whose career has been harmed by tokenism, writes that the publishers want “girlfriend books” from Black writers. I call them Black Bogeyman books. The attitude of publishers is that the Black experience has to be interpreted rather than defined by those who live the experience, which is why each week, The New York Times Book Review highlights books by white authors whose characters are Black.

In contrast, many of our best Black authors remain unpublished. Some white authors, but few contemporary authors, have first-hand experience with Native Americans and Blacks, as Twain and Fenimore Cooper. Cooper, who could distinguish between Native languages, and regardless of stereotypes, noticed that Native Americans could detect phenomena that escaped the settler’s perspective. Similarly, only Zakiya Dalila Harris as an insider, could have uncovered the racism and sexism in the literature industry.

 — Ishmael Reed

When the conductor asks for the ticket to our millennial narrator’s destination, she reveals that she neither knows where she is going, nor why. She merely asks, “what’s the most northern stop on this train?”. Flight to the northernmost is the motion of nineteenth century emancipatory narratives told and written by Black ancestors insisting upon freedom. This twenty-first century narrative, testing the ironies of freedom and resisting less than collective liberation, is the prescient, brilliant, and brave achievement of The Other Black Girl. Through “connections made…where none existed before”, the novel informs the present by speaking to the future.

— Eleanor Traylor

Witty, inventive, and smart, The Other Black Girl goes deeper to take on class privilege, race, and gender in a narrative that slyly plays along the edges of convention. Zakiya Dalila Harris’s debut is a brilliant combustion of suspense, horror, and social commentary that leaves no assumption unchallenged and no page unturned.

— Walter Mosley

OMG, as the kids say. This is the funniest, wildest, deepest, most thought-provoking ride of a book. I have been Nella. Every black woman has been Nella. Zakiya Dalila Harris has pulled back the curtain on the publishing industry, but in doing so, she has also perfectly captured a social dynamic that exists in job cultures as varied as tech, finance, academia, even retail and fast food. Oh, beware of the ‘OBGs’—Other Black Girls—y’all. As we should all be aware of the psychic cost to black women of making ourselves palatable to institutions that use our cultural cache for their own ends while disregarding any part of our hearts and minds that they either can’t or won’t understand.

— Attica Locke

I tore through Zakiya Dalila Harris’s The Other Black Girl, a hilarious yet spine-chilling send-up of the whiteness of the publishing world, with my jaw on the floor. Its detailed dissection of the complex forces that curtail Black ambition is by turns tender and utterly lacerating, combining the nuance of a Kiley Reid with the twisted gut-punches of Bamboozled. It draws you in with a laugh and a smile, then shoves you into a nightmare you won’t be able to shake off. A simply brilliant debut. 

— Amy Gentry 

Fatima Shaik

Fatima Shaik (Photo: Sophia Little)

Fatima Shaik is the author of seven books, most recently Economy Hall: The Hidden History of a Free Black Brotherhood, published by The Historic New Orleans Collection. The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities 2022 Book of the Year, Economy Hall was named among Kirkus Review’s “Best of 2021—Nonfiction.” The State Library Center for the Book named Shaik its Louisiana Writer Award Recipient in 2021 for “outstanding contributions to Louisiana’s literary and intellectual life exemplified by a contemporary writer’s body of work.”

Shaik is a native of New Orleans with roots in Africa, India, Europe, and the Americas. Her father Mohamed Shaik was one of the first black pilots in the state and a college professor. Her mother was a schoolteacher and poet. Shaik attended Xavier University of Louisiana before transferring to Boston University, attaining a B.A in Journalism. She has an M.A. from New York University.

She was one of the first black daily reporters at the New Orleans Times-Picayune in 1973 and became the assistant editor of McGraw-Hill World News in 1978 in New York Her first book of fiction,The Mayor of New Orleans: Just Talking Jazz was published in 1987 (“a terrific, charging solo,” said NPR).

Shaik’s young adult novel Melitte, written in the voice of an enslaved 18th century child, was an American Booksellers Association Pick of the Lists, Fall 1997, and an American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults nominee. Shaik has written for The Southern Review, Callaloo, Tribes, The Root, In These Times, and New York Times. Her work is included several anthologies including Streetlights: Illuminating Tales of the Urban Black Experience and Breaking Ice: An Anthology of Contemporary African American Fiction. She is the recipient of grants from the NEH, LEH and the Kittredge Fund and is the subject of a documentary, The Bengali, by director Kavery Kaul. Shaik retired in 2020 as assistant professor from Saint Peter’s University where she founded its Communication program, now the Communication and Media Culture Department. A former board member of The Writers Room, Shaik recently ended her tenure as a trustee of PEN America, the literary human rights organization. 

Fatima Shaik
Economy Hall: The Hidden History of a Free Black Brotherhood (The Historic New Orleans Collection)

In the face of an oppressive white society, members of the Société d’Economie et d’Assistance Mutuelle built a community and held it together through the era of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow terrorism. Economy Hall: The Hidden History of a Free Black Brotherhood follows Ludger Boguille, his family, and his friends through landmark events— from the Haitian Revolution to the birth of jazz—that shaped New Orleans and the United States.

The story begins when the author’s father rescues a century’s worth of journals, handwritten in French, from a trash hauler’s pickup truck. From the journals’ pages emerges one of the most important multi-ethnic, intellectual communities in the US South: educators, world-traveling merchants, soldiers, tradesmen, and poets. Though Louisiana law classified them as men of color, Negroes, and Blacks, the Economie brothers rejected racism and colorism to fight for suffrage and education rights for all. A descendant of the Economie’s community, author Fatima Shaik has spent decades reading and translating the journals, which begin with the society’s founding in 1836.

She combed through 19th-century newspapers, legal cases, congressional testimony, real estate records, and Creole family histories. In Economy Hall, she has constructed a meticulously detailed nonfiction narrative that reads like an epic novel.

Economy Hall’ is so inviting that the true depth of its scholarship is revealed only in its bibliography, which lists dozens of archival and other sources. Shaik’s monumental book….is lyrical and mysterious and always captivating.

— Jane Dailey, New York Times

A most remarkable book built upon extraordinary research, beautiful writing, and devotion to telling the truth about the outstanding elite free colored community in New Orleans and its multi-generational battles for equal rights and against deeply entrenched, growing violent racism in their beloved home.

— Gwendolyn Midlo Hall

She renders the results of her extensive primary source research for Economy Hall with the detail and pacing of a novel.

— Leslie Matuko Molson, American History Review

Shaik blows the dust off the ancient records of an African American society…A lively, readable story.

— Starred Review, Best Nonfiction 2021

Fatima Shaik’s stunning book stems from the author’s tenacity in excavating the contours of a culture and a keen eye for the people who sustained it.

— Jason Berry, America Magazine

Edwin Torres

Edwin Torres (Photo: David McIntyre)

Edwin Torres is a native of New York City. He is editor of The Body In Language: An Anthology (Counterpath Press) and the author of fourteen collections of poetry, including; Quanundrum: [i will be your many angled thing] (Roof Books), Xoeteox: the collected word object (Wave Books), Ameriscopia (University of Arizona Press) and The Popedology of an Ambient Language (Atelos Books). Multi-disciplinary collaborations with a wide range of cultural nomads have contributed to the development of his bodylingo poetics. He has received fellowships from NYFA, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, The DIA Foundation, and The Poetry Fund among others. Anthologies include, New Weathers: Poetics from the Naropa Archives, The Difference Is Spreading: 50 Contemporary Poets on Fifty Poems, Poets In The 21st Century: Poetics of Social Engagement and Aloud: Voices From The Nuyorican Poets Café. This year he’ll be teaching a Master Class at Columbia University entitled, Brainlingo: Writing The Voice of The Body.

Edwin Torres
Quanundrum: [i will be your many angled thing] (Roof Books)

In Quanundrum [i will be your many angled thing], Edwin Torres moves beyond reality to examine what it means to be Puerto Rican, human, a living entity. As Kristin Dykstra writes in her review, He problematizes the ‘I,’ not allowing selfhood to stabilize into one identity. The human being is multitudinous […]”
Quanundrum is a poetic triumph that employs the spectral to study, dismantle, reconfigure, who or what we are. It is a sophisticated treatise on 21st century humanity and beyond.

Born in the Bronx, New York City, Edwin Torres is part of literary schools that include: The Nuyorican Literary Movement, The St. Mark’s Poetry Project, and the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E school. Torres considers himself a  “lingualisualist” rooted in the languages of sight and sound. In addition to Quanundrum, he has authored 15 books of poetry some of which include: Ameriscopia (University of Arizona Press, 2014), Yes Thing No Thing (Roof Books, 2010), In The Function of External Circumstances (Nightboat Books, 2009), and The PoPedology of an Ambient Language (Atelos Books, 2008). He is the recipient of a myriad of awards among them are Chapbook Competition, Annual Press Prize, The Center For Book Arts, NYC, NY / Feb 2019, Artist Residency — First Choice, ICA International Center of Art, Richmond, VA / March 2018, Fellowship in Poetics & Poetic Practice — University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia / Oct 2016-May 2017, Artist Residency — Open Sessions, The Drawing Center, NYC, NY / March 2016-2018, Artist Residency — Writing On It All, Arts Program / Governors Island, NYC, NY / June 2016, Theater Residency — PIFA: Philadelphia Festival of Arts, Kimmel Arts Center, Philadelphia, PA /April 2016, Andres Montoya Poetry Prize, Biennial First Book Prize / University of Notre Dame, IN / Jan 2016, Artist Residencies, Mid-Hudson Arts Council / Millay Colony, Austerlitz, NY / Oct-Dec 2015, Artist Fellowship — Beyond Hunger: City of Tomorrow Symposium / City Harvest, NYC, NY / Nov 2015, Artist & Writer Residency Program / Millay Colony, Austerlitz, NY / Oct-Dec 2015, and AWP’s Mentorship Program, Association of Writer’s & Writing Programs / Sept 2015-Dec 2015.

Edwin Torres lives with his wife and son in Beacon, New York.

— Nancy Mercado, PhD

Torres inventories his own multi-part structure by riffing across roles he has sketched in other collections. He achieves a serial application of the “qua” from his book title, in two registers: qua as a general idea of a role, and qua, particular examples of roles. The self manifests, the self thins to nothing, the self dissolves, the self regroups across varied roles. Because a principle of Quanundrum defines livingness by way of our repetitions, it makes sense that Torres revisits roles he outlined in earlier collections, such as Iqua son; I qua urban dweller. And more: there is a self as father, who is also a teller of bedtime tales with stars and moonscapes, building on Torres’s appealing 2010 collection, Yes Thing No Thing. I qua poet manifests as well, here in lines of three:

     if the I, in I, … weren’t a poet
            I would worry that I couldn’t separate
     that there is much more of me

            in the unknown … than I will ever
     need or see or be
            if I weren’t a poet … I would have

     (“[overflow],” lines 22-27)

— Kristin Dykstra

Truong Tran

Truong Tran (Photo: Kaya Press)

Poet and visual artist Truong Tran was born in Saigon, Vietnam. He earned his MFA from San Francisco State University and is the author of five collections of poetry: The Book of Perceptions (1999), a finalist for a Kiriyama Prize; Placing the Accents (1999), a finalist for a Western States Book Award for Poetry; Dust and Conscience (2000), winner of a San Francisco State Poetry Center Prize; within the margin (2004); and Four Letter Words (2008), 100 words (co-authored with Damon Potter, 2021), and book of the other (2021). He is also the author of the children’s book Going Home, Coming Home (2003) and the artist monograph I Meant to Say Please Pass the Sugar.

Tran has described himself as primarily a visual artist whose “alter ego” is a poet, and has said he believes that art, be it poetry, cooking, sculpting and even gardening, are his ways of thinking through the consciousness of the times we live in.

Truong Tran
Book of the Other: Small in Comparison (Kaya Press)

Like sight-compromised people, (I hesitate to use the word blind, because of its pejorative associations), who feel the elephant in the room and describe it through varying lenses, we’ve all witnessed or experienced racism in different forms and degrees. In Tran’s story, however, he is the elephant in the room. Anti-Asian violence is easy to identify, when it’s overt. But in its subtle forms, whether it’s the polite innuendo, put-down or the covert micro-aggressions of a white-dominated, institutional hierarchy, it is much more difficult to address, much less prove or identify. Tran’s story is an autopsy of what happens to memory, when the psyche is tormented by the trauma of racism. It’s an internal dialogue of multiple selves told as he says “somewhere in first. person. second. Person. Present tense. . .”  The invisible Asian is the elephant in the room, the other that the Other doesn’t see or acknowledge, whether by willful design, indifference and ignorance or benign neglect.

Tran quotes one of his students, “I can’t afford the luxury of metaphor.” The metaphor hides what it attempts to reveal. It’s a cover-up. Truong dissects his relationship to poetry as an ontological examination of his relationship to whiteness. By doing so Tran exposes the insidious effects of historical racism as a legacy of systemic violence that continues to this day.

— Genny Lim

Mai Der Vang

Mai Der Vang (Photo: Andre Yang)

Mai Der Vang is the author of two collections of poetry. Her most recent collection, Yellow Rain (Graywolf Press, 2021), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, the LA Times Book Prize in Poetry, and the California Book Awards. Mai Der’s first book, Afterland (Graywolf Press, 2017), received the First Book Award of the Academy of American Poets, was longlisted for the National Book Award in Poetry, and a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award.

The recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, she served as a Visiting Writer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Tin House, the American Poetry Review, among other journals and anthologies. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, espnW, and elsewhere.

Mai Der also co-edited How Do I Begin: A Hmong American Literary Anthology with the Hmong American Writers’ Circle. A Kundiman fellow, she has completed residencies at Civitella Ranieri and Hedgebrook. Born and raised in Fresno, California, she earned degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. Mai Der teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Fresno State.

Mai Der Vang
Yellow Rain (Graywolf Press)

Mai Der takes account. She dares to open the chemical weapon ink rained down upon the valiant Hmong escaping the horrors of the Viet Nam War. The blotted skin, the triple death, that is, the dissolving skin, the chemical yellow agent ripping flesh, the deaths invisible-ized, the evaporated histories. Here is the trail, the document, the re-assembled bodies of truth, the poem of floating pieces, the poems of research of rebirth in trapezoid housing. It is the yellow rain now, again. Being re-tested with truth on your hands as you turn the page, splattered onto  your eyes as you dare to read the government’s report in shadow, yet alive, everything is alive. Mai Der gives it a new life. It is called enlightenment. It is called a time to honor the dead, the Hmong. It is called a time for humanity. The book of the century.

— Juan Felipe Herrera, August 26, 2022

Mai Der Vang intensifies and innovates documentary poetics in Yellow Rain. It confronts empire’s crimes against humanity and the interlocking power of science and military-industrial complex. Yellow Rain is a magnificent textual revolt against historical amnesia.

— Don Mee Choi

Vang’s lyrical interventions strike powerful notes of lamentation and rage, yet most effective are her visual collage-poems, which use fragmentation to interrogate the inhumanity of the official account.

New Yorker

Phillip B. Williams

Phillip B. Williams (Photo: Nicholas Nichols)

Phillip B. Williams is a Chicago, Illinois native and author of Mutiny (Penguin, 2021) and Thief in the Interior (Alice James Books, 2016), winner of the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and a 2017 Lambda Literary award. He received a 2017 Whiting Award and was a Helen Putman fellow for the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. He is founding faculty of Randolph College low-residency MFA program.

Phillip B. Williams
Mutiny (Penguin Books)

Mutiny: a rebellion, a subversion, an onslaught. In poems that rebuke classical mythos and western canonical figures, and embrace Afro-Diasporanfolk and spiritual imagery, Phillip B. Williams conjures the hell of being erased, exploited, and ill-imagined and then, through a force and generosity of vision, propels himself into life, selfhood, and a path forward. Intimate, bold, and sonically mesmerizing, Mutiny addresses loneliness, desire, doubt, memory, and the borderline between beauty and tragedy. With a ferocity that belies the tenderness and vulnerability at the heart of this remarkable collection, Williams honors the transformative power of anger, and the clarity that comes from allowing that anger to burn clean.  

With Mutiny, his second collection of poetry, Phillip B. Williams rewards the reader with admirably honest emotions and brilliant intellection. In these dexterous poems, Williams invites readers to look hard and deeply at the ways Black folk have lived and their lives have been perceived and misperceived across this nation’s history right to present. I’m beyond grateful for these utterly unflinching poems.

Sean Hill

Williams is one of the most inventive poets working today—at every turn, his writing surprises. Mutiny addresses the injustices of the history and present with declarative, clear, and powerful poems . . . In addition to holding a dynamic presence on the page, Williams’ lines are so sonically resonant that they demand to be spoken . . . This collection quickly became one of my favorites from this past year and, I’m sure, many years to come.

— Corinne Segal

[A] remarkable second collection . . . [Williams] writes powerfully about masculinity, Blackness, selfhood, anger, loneliness, and love . . . These poems shimmer with thematic heft without shying away from anger and disappointment. Balancing tenderness with rage, and love with pain, Williams offers a complex portrait of a speaker navigating a society whose history is one of brutality . . . These poems capture the resounding loneliness and grace that arrive after anger has burned away, while offering rewarding and memorable images that celebrate the opportunities to appreciate the chance for survival and renewal.

Publishers Weekly

Michelle Zauner

Michelle Zauner (Photo: Barbora Mrazkova)

Michelle Zauner is best known as a singer and guitarist who creates dreamy, shoegaze-inspired indie pop under the name Japanese Breakfast. She has won acclaim from major music outlets around the world for releases like Psychopomp (2016) and Soft Sounds from Another Planet (2017).

Michelle Zauner
Crying in H Mart: A Memoir (Knopf)

Michelle Zauner’s memoir Crying in H-Mart is a beautifully incandescent mother-and-daughter story full of heart and humor. When her New Yorker essay of the same name went viral in 2018, Zauner’s words struck a chord with readers, many the fellow children of immigrants for whom a trip to H-Mart and the meal subsequently prepared represents bonds with family, a closeness to a faraway culture, and a feeling of physical and emotional fullness. (H-Mart, for the unacquainted, is a beloved Korean grocery store chain and suburban mecca for Asian and Asian-Americans whose culinary needs are not readily satisfied by the local grocery store.) In H-Mart, Zauner writes, “we’re all searching for a piece of home, or a piece of ourselves. We look for a taste of it in the food we order and the ingredients we buy.”

Her memoir begins with this essay before launching into an exploration of why it is that she finds herself crying in H-Mart. Throughout, food is used as a vehicle to explore themes of identity, grief, and love. With disarming humor and unfailing honesty, Zauner, who readers might recognize from her solo indie pop project Japanese Breakfast, describes a childhood in Eugene, Oregon during which, like so many other mixed-race kids, she longed for the whiteness of her peers. Despite being sent to Korean School every Friday evening during her elementary school years, she never acquires fluency in her mother tongue nor the cultural membership that this provides. Her connection to her heritage comes largely from food – her mother’s kalbi ribs, trips to Seoul Cafe, the banchan side dishes laid across the table at every meal. But food is not just a connection to a culture – it is a language of love shared by mother and daughter. It is this relationship that forms the heart of the story.

As the title Crying in H-Mart might suggest, for Zauner food is also tied to grief. At the age of 25, struggling to make it in the music world, she receives a call from her parents that would change her world: her mother has stage IV cancer. Returning to her childhood home, Zauner takes up the mantle of nurse and caregiver, a reversal of roles lost on neither. Zauner sees this as a chance to make amends for her teenage years during which she and her mother struggled to understand one another emotionally, for words and actions said, done and regretted. She takes on this new role with dedication and spares readers no emotional heartstring as she describes her mother’s treatment and suffering along the way.

One such ongoing struggle is the battle to ensure that her mother is taking in enough calories and nourishment, not an easy task for chemotherapy patients. For a relationship in which food is of high importance, Zauner is distressed to find that she doesn’t know how to make the dishes that have served as a bridge between the two. She is unable to bring her mother the basic comfort of food. While her love for her mother is expressed in a spiral notebook in which she laboriously tallies the nutritional information of every morsel of food and sip of stew, food also comes to signify the shame that she feels at not being able to cook the Korean dishes that her mother’s friends make with ease. Not knowing how to prepare the jatjuk pine nut porridge that, full of nutrients, her mother would make for her when ill, she is racked by guilt – guilt at not being able to provide her mother nourishment and at not feeling as if she is Korean enough.

After her mother’s passing, food becomes an expression of grief and a prayer for comfort (so to speak, as Zauner and her mother are irreligious). Thrown off-center by the loss of her mother, she struggles to stay connected to her and their shared Korean culture. But in her mourning, and with the guidance of Korean chef Youtuber Maangchi (Emily Kim), Zauner begins to learn to cook her mother’s food. She prepares jatjuk for herself and in so doing finds empowerment. Cooking food becomes a means of cherishing her family and for forgiving herself.

— Katie Saibara, International Examiner 

Gayl Jones

Gayl Jones (Illustration: P.S. Spencer; from photo by Thomas Victor)

Gayl Jones is an African American writer from Lexington, Kentucky. She is recognized as a key figure in 20th century African-American literature. Imani Perry posits Jones as “one of the most versatile and transformative writers of the 20th century”.

Jones published her debut novel, Corregidora at age 25. The book, edited by Toni Morrison, was met with critical acclaim and praised by leading intellectuals including James Baldwin and John Updike. Her sophomore novel Eva’s Man was met with less renown and characterized as “dangerous” by some critics for its raw depiction of cruelty and violence. Jones continued publishing in the late 1990s, releasing The Healing and Mosquito — the former of which was shortlisted for the National Book Award. In 2021, she published Palmares, her first published work in 22 years. It was a finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Beginning with her debut novel, Corregidora in 1975, published when she was 25 years old, Gayl Jones has been a giant in the world of literary fiction, that sometimes ominous world that publishers often fear and that critics love. Toni Morrison discovered her early, nurturing a talent that she believed “changed black women’s literature forever.” Jones had entered that haunted domain of slavery with that powerhouse of a book more than a decade before Morrison would pen Beloved.  The student may well have become the teacher, we might say. Jones’s significance has been proclaimed in review after review of her 12 published works, including 5 novels, 2 short story collections, 3 poetry collections, 1 play, and an anthology of criticism. Palmares, which appeared in 2021, was a timely reminder of the faithfulness of her writing, her fearless unearthing of the past as it was and as it survives through generations of black lived experience. The novel is a new coming of age for the rage of our times.  Seen from this perspective, Jones is that woke writer who warns of what can happen in a culture of violence. Like the historical context for Corregidora, Palmares depicts the global impact of the violent slavery trade. For Jones, fiction is a way to see history from its interior side. She gives us the beauty, terror, love, and truths of blackness in the most durable forms of our language, its rich orality, and its unique capacity for nuance. Jones invokes this voice as the only way to reclaim the spiritual essence of a people forced to take those broken pieces of a dauntingly complicated world and give them new meaning. At the same time, she respects the need for transparency by continuing to unveil the brutality and moral debasement that characterize the human experience in our known history. Her overarching goal has been to give attention to important truths that are too often hidden. Critics have consistently praised Jones’s brilliance and uncompromising commitment to the art and craft of storytelling. As its messenger, she bathes us in the painful realities expressed in her fiction. Imani Perry considers Gayl Jones “the most versatile and transformative writer of the 20th century“ adding her to the list of “blessed ones” that Sonia Sanchez has offered.

Gayl Jones was also a college professor a year later 1976, just after she’d published Eva’s Man. Randal Jelks, the civil rights scholar and biographer, remembers taking his first class on African American literature from Jones, followed by an independent study. “She seemed older than she was because she was such a perceptive thinker. We read fiction in that class, Chesnutt, Hurston, and Hughes among others, through the art of the writer. The vernacular voice was paramount. Recluse though she was, she exhibited a good sense of humor in our one-on-one sessions.” That reclusiveness and the private elements of her life have interested far too many people at the expense of the incredible body of work that Jones has continued to produce.  

My appreciation for Gayl Jones has had special significance over the course of my career. I recall my discovery of Kentucky’s first known black writer, Effie Waller Smith, who became a touchstone in the History of Black Writing corpus. I’d read Jones’s first three novels and quickly discovered the literary legacy from Effie Waller Smith to Alice Allison Dunnigan (the first African American female White House correspondent), to Gayl Jones and bell hooks. Jones is in renewal mode as she continually recalibrates her career. She has not allowed a dream to be deferred, knowing that there are more stories to tell and truths to be revealed. Gayl Jones is unstoppable, a long-distance runner. Before Columbus Foundation honors not only a lifetime of achievement, enormous productivity, and genius, but the relentlessness of Gayl Jones, a writer for all times.

— Maryemma Graham 


Jessica E. Teague: Sound Recording Technology and American Literature

Jessica E. Teague (Photo: Aaron Mayes)

Jessica Teague received her PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University and is currently an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She specializes in 20th and 21st-century American Literature and has taught courses on Jazz and American Literature, Modern American Drama, Modern American Novel, as well as surveys of American Literature, World Literature, and Theory. The intersections between literature, sound, and technology are the focus of her research, and she is the author of Sound Recording Technology and American Literature, from the Phonograph to the Remix (Cambridge UP, 2021). Her teaching and research is interdisciplinary and engages with modernism, sound studies, jazz, theatre and performance, new media, and African American studies. She has penned numerous articles and essays, and her work has appeared in venues such as American Quarterly, Sound Studies, MELUS, SoundingOut! and others. She has also been the recipient of research fellowships from the ACLS and the Harrison Institute at the University of Virginia.

Phonographs, tapes, stereo LPs, digital remix – how did these remarkable technologies impact American writing? This book explores how twentieth-century writers shaped the ways we listen in our multimedia present. Uncovering a rich new archive of materials, this book offers a resonant reading of how writers across several genres, such as John Dos Passos, Langston Hughes, William S. Burroughs, and others, navigated the intermedial spaces between texts and recordings. Numerous scholars have taken up remix – a term co-opted from DJs and sound engineers – as the defining aesthetic of twenty-first century art and literature. Others have examined modernism’s debt to the phonograph. But in the gap between these moments, one finds that the reciprocal relationship between the literary arts and sonic technologies continued to evolve over the twentieth century. A mix of American literary history, sound studies, and media archaeology, this interdisciplinary study will appeal to scholars, students, and audiophiles.

Hear the word music and most often it will be in reference to a recording, so thoroughly has music been supplanted by its archiving devices. But what impact has this sudden departure from the ancient muses had on American literature? Jessica Teague has some answers; surprising, beautiful, and frequently vivacious answers. To begin, this great revolution in recording coincided with the even greater revolution in Jazz. This alone dramatically changed the way we not only hear, but how we write and what we hear when we read. Stranger still, how we hear what it is we write as we write it! Authors, musicians, creative writers, poets, were all transformed by the experience of recording and playing-back. The newsreel, the “talkie” and the first 78 rpm records turned the world of literature on its ear. Legendary composers and musicians could now “write” books from their own speaking voices, taken gently down on tape by interested archivists. Poets could interpolate the sounds they heard directly from records into their books, intimating what their inner-ear might have otherwise not so adamantly insisted. Emerging from all this cataclysm was a rebirth, the traumatic break with the past was also a fertile new harvesting of sound. Great composers such as “Jelly Roll” Morton and Sidney Bechet are given their due as authors by Teague, revealing the complexities of putting Black speech into print. Interpreters of the master improvisors in music, authors as diverse as the great Langston Hughes and the experimentalist Jack Kerouac, are given bountiful rendering in thought provoking analysis. Dystopic uses of recording and its technocratic nightmares are explored in the daunting works of William S. Burroughs. The pioneering search for a new aesthetic, embodying the struggle for self-determination among Blacks internationally, is explored with a significant chapter on Amiri Baraka. All in all, Teague’s work itself is pioneering, charting a territory very few have begun to enter. It is an area that Teague explores with wit, curiosity, tenacity, and a thoroughness all too rare in the field. We congratulate Teague and are elated to bring this honor to her work. 

— Justin Desmangles


Jeffrey St. Clair (Editor), CounterPunch


Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent books are Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution and The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink (with Joshua Frank).

I look at the corporate media and want to tear my hair out. You have these guys, like the pompous columnists who dominate the Times editorial page, fifty years behind the south in terms of diversity and whose resumes are interchangeable. Their whole experience is framed by conversations in expensive water holes within about 20 blocks of Times Square. Their bylines appear in The Atlantic, The New Republic, etc. White males dominate the means of expression in this country. Newsrooms are 78.18% white. The publishing industry is 75% white, 84% of TV executives, and 92% of film executives are white, yet some complain about Wokeness, Cancel Culture, and other hobgoblins and ghosts. Though they dismiss DeSantis as a Hayseed, they sounded like him when commenting on the San Francisco Recall of 3 school board members. I correct their coverage in my new play,” The Conductor.”

I wrote an article in Alta about how they continue to diss California. They know as much about California as I know about Tuxedo Park, New York. Like the cynical white TV producers, anyone like George Pelecanos or David Simon has more power to write about Black lives than any 1000 Black writers. They entertain audiences that locate the drug crisis in the inner city kids (you know the scene done thousands of times, ghetto kids on the corner selling drugs and the law rolls up as they disperse). Yet CVS, Rexall seems to have been selling Oxycontin, leading to thousands of deaths. These kids get lengthy sentences. Big Pharma pays fines. The TV journalists can’t discuss them because big Pharma pays their salaries. They can’t talk about big oil destroying the planet because it pays their bills. For the first time, Blacks have a longer lifespan than whites. Not a single know-it-all eastern columnist wrote about this fact. The unspoken rule in the media is that you’re soft on white crime and white pathology.

Have you heard of ankle bracelets? Established journalists have to wear brain bracelets to survive, and the few token blacks who are invited to the club grumble about how their opinions are policed by their employers.A Pakistani journalist, the fastest mind on their panels, was fired because he “talked about white supremacy too much.” CNN panelists complain about crackpots on social media championing Donald Trump. CNN, MSNBC, and CBS created Donald Trump.

Fortunately, Jeffrey St.Clair has provided a space for independent thought, free from the restrictions imposed by advertisers. His journalism is not welcomed by those who demand that their employees score ratings. While CNN and MSNBC provide explanations for inflation, St.Clair connects war to oil profits. They also profit from inflation. St.Clair cited Haliburton’s billions as an example.” Halliburton, the Houston, Texas-based oil services conglomerate, has made billions from the war even in the face of charges of massive overbilling, shoddy work, official bribery, and political influence-peddling.” Each network has a military expert. Usually, someone connected to the defense industry. St.Clair writes about”Pentagon Thievery.” He and Alexander Cockburn were among the few journalists who backed up the late Gary Webb’s charge that Reagan and the Contras were selling drugs in our neighborhoods with their book Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press. They were among the few who mentioned that the CIA admitted to this conspiracy.

“A shocking expose of the CIA’s role as drug baron. On March 18, 1998, the CIA’s Inspector General, Fred Hitz, told astounded US Reps that the CIA had maintained relationships with companies and individuals that the Agency knew to be involved in the drug business. More shocking was the revelation that the CIA had received from Reagan’s Justice Department clearance not to report any knowledge it might have of drug-dealing by CIA assets. Many years’ worth of CIA denials, much of it under oath to Congress, were sunk. Hitz’s admissions made fools of some of the most prominent names in US journalism and vindicated others that had been ruined. Particularly resonant was the case of the San Jose Mercury News, which published a sensational series on CIA involvement in the smuggling of cocaine into black urban neighborhoods, and then under pressure conspired in the destruction of its reporter, Gary Webb.” Gary Webb “committed suicide,” unlike the cowardly journalists who condemned Webb. Living in a Black neighborhood, I witnessed the effect of Contra Reagan’s drug alliance from my front porch. I guess Reagan thought that as “monkeys” we were disposable.

Corporate news readers believe that their product is superior to social media, where I have found a variety of Black and Latino experiences instead of the all-day mug shots of minority men offered by the corporate media. Connecting Blacks and Latinos to crime during their local news take the form of a frenzy—a form of entertainment for their white subscribers. They’ve ignored a report showing the highest murder rates occur in the Red States.

Jeffrey St. Clair has a solid reputation as a fearless and uncompromising writer and journalist. His Counterpunch is where writers can tell the truth without fear of censorship.

— Ishmael Reed


WAVE BOOKS: Charlie Wright (Publisher), Joshua Beckman (Editor in Chief)

Joshua Beckman

Joshua Beckman was born in New Haven, Connecticut. He is a poet, translator and editor. Some of his recent books include Animal Days, SOME MECHANICAL POEMS TO BE READ ALOUD and Poem Summaries (with Alejandro de Acosta). He is the editor-in-chief of Wave Books.

Charlie Wright

Charlie Wright practiced law for a short time before moving from Seattle to New York and taking a job as the Executive Director of the Dia Art Foundation in 1984. While there, overseeing a primarily visual arts program, he began a number of public projects including the Dia Poetry Series, a public reading series with a complimentary publishing program.  After ten years at Dia he returned to Seattle to take a role in a family business, and in 2006 started Wave Books, with a focus on contemporary poetry and books by poets.

As chairman of Before Columbus, I see more books than the law allows. Thousands pass through our office each year. A renaissance or a glut of MFAs, time will tell. Publishers want you to buy their book, authors would like you to read it. Understanding the book may be a distant third in that race. Above and beyond any contemporary house, Wave Books has distinguished itself as pre-eminent. I remember very well the first time I touched a book from Wave. That is but one element that sets them apart, their feel. The design of each publication is unique, yet as consistent as Reid Miles. Elegant, formal without pretension, balanced and attractive, a Wave Books publication is immediately recognized. 

In recent years, the award committees seem to have caught on. There have been some major victories for Wave authors in the upper echelons. Don Mee Choi and Tyehimba Jess of course come immediately to mind. But it is the vision of Wave Books and its tremendous scope that we wish to honor here. Lesser known but no less important works that Wave has brought into print are equally vivacious and vital. I am thinking of Scenes of Life at the Capital by Philip Whalen, so skillfully edited by David Brazil. What is Poetry? (Just kidding, I know you know): Interviews from The Poetry Project Newsletter (1983 – 2009) is an invaluable contribution to international letters, edited by Anselm Berrigan. 

When we gaze out over the last seventy years of American literature, a handful of editors and publishers have played such decisive roles. Richard Seaver, Barney Rossett, James Laughlin, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti leap forward, as does Donald Allen. The harder, tougher work being done at the street level from folks like Amiri Baraka, Diane Di Prima, and Hettie Jones with Yugen, Floating Bear; or the legendary Dudley Randall at Broadside Press in Detroit; our own Ishmael Reed with Yardbird Reader in Berkeley, California. Small presses, too, that made enormous impact such as Angel Hair, that great gift bestowed by Anne Waldman and Lewis Warsh. I have no doubt that Wave Books will join all of these in the annals of art history.

— Justin Desmangles