VIDEO: Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, a Night of Extraordinary Talent and Passion


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The 79th Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards ceremony was held last Thursday evening at the Ohio Theater at Playhouse Square. Five awards (two of them lifetime achievements) were bestowed upon literary artists who have made important contributions to the understanding of race and human diversity.

You can watch the ceremony in full below. 

"The Sound of Applause's" Dee Perry emcee'd the event as a last-minute fill-in for Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. Gates serves on Anisfield-Wolf's five-member jury along with the eminently prolific Joyce Carol Oates, former poet laureate Rita Dove, historian Simon Schama, and Harvard professor Steven Pinker.

The Cleveland Foundation's Ronn Richard notes in his introductory remarks that hosting the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards is always a highlight of the year for Gates, but he was unable to attend because of a hip injury.

If you watch only a piece of the ceremony below, make a point to check out Ari Shavit's remarks from ~1:01 to ~1:14. Shavit won this year's nonfiction award for his book My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tagedy of Israel.  He traveled from Israel to Cleveland to accept the award and his heartfelt gratitude, short reading, and final reflections are indicative of the power and emotion of the ceremony at large. 

"I don't know if you were aware of it, but Israel and Cleveland were never so close," Shavit says in a lighthearted moment. "You now have a new old king in town, and we just gave you the best, best basketball coach there is."

Anthony Marra, who won this year's fiction award for his novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena reads a moving passage from his book at about the 44:00 mark. 

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