Anthony Marra among Anisfield-Wolf award winners

(Courtesy of Hogarth)
(Courtesy of Hogarth)

Less than two weeks after accepting the “first novel” prize from the National Book Critics Circle, Washington-native Anthony Marra is among the winners of the Anisfield-Wolf awards.

Presented each year by the Cleveland Foundation, the Anisfield-Wolf awards honor literature that “confronts racism and examines diversity.

Marra, who now teaches at Stanford University, won the fiction prize for his debut novel, “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” which was also one of The Washington Post s top-10 books for 2013. (He is expected back in Washington on May 11 to accept the first Carla Furstenberg Cohen Literary Prize at Politics & Prose Bookstore.)

The other Anisfield-Wolf winners are:

Poetry: “The Big Smoke,” by Adrian Matejka, who teaches at Indiana University in Bloomington. This collection, which was also a finalist for a 2013 National Book Award, is about Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight world champion. In her Washington Post review last fall, Elizabeth Lund wrote, “This is a rich, sometimes disturbing portrait of a fascinating, flawed and complex man.”

Nonfiction: “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,” by Ari Shavit, a columnist for Jerusalem’s daily newspaper Haaretz. Last December, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen called Shavit’s work an “anguished . . .virtuous book that exhumes the dream of Zionism — and also its success.”

At a ceremony at the Ohio Theatre in Cleveland on Sept. 11, Shavit will receive $10,000, and Matejka and Marra will receive $5,000 each.

The Cleveland foundation also announced two lifetime achievement awards today for Sir Wilson Harris, a Guyanese writer who lives outside London, and for George Lamming, a Caribbean writer who lives in Barbados.

In a statement released this morning, Henry Louis Gates Jr., who chairs the jury, said, “The 2014 Anisfield-Wolf winners are exemplars who broaden our vision of race and diversity.”

The Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize was established in 1935 by a Cleveland poet named Edith Anisfield Wolf. The Cleveland Foundation, a philanthropic organization with almost $2 billion in assets, has administered the Anisfield-Wolf prize since 1963.

Rita Dove, Joyce Carol Oates, Steven Pinker and Simon Schama serve on the jury panel. (Schama will be at the Author Series at the Hay Adams hotel near the White House on Thursday, March 27. For tickets call 202-638-6600.)

For more information about the awards and the Cleveland Foundation, visit www.Anisfield-Wolf.org.

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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