Day: October 15th, 2007

The Language of Experience

Monday, October 15th, 2007 | All Things, Books, Events

Back at the Donnell Library Center across the street from the MoMA for The 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Awards presentation and reception. As with last year’s event, the evening celebrated outstanding books by writers of color, with the goal of increasing visibility for non-mainstream groups and ensuring that current literature represents the diversity of the American people.

The recipients of the 2007 Beyond Margins Awards are:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Half of a Yellow Sun
Ernest Hardy for Blood Beats: Vol. 1
Harryette Mullen for Recyclopedia: Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse & Drudge
Alberto Álvaro Ríos for The Theater of Night

Authors Jaime Manrique (pictured below) and Sonia Sanchez (minus her signature dreads: she cut them off after a debilitating bout with the flu a few months ago) offered the welcoming remarks and introduction before ceding the stage to the three readers who would be excerpting the winning works.

Jaime Manrique

Monique T.D. Truong read from Nigerian author Adichie’s political epic, which in June also won the 2007 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. Marie Ponsot, who like Sanchez is a Frost Medal winner for “distinguished lifetime service to American poetry,” presented the poetry readings by Mullen and Ríos. I especially liked “Explaining a Husband” from Ríos’ collection of poems, which follows a couple in a United States-Mexico border town through their youth, marriage and old age.

Marie Ponsot

Author Adam Haslett, who in 2006 shared the PEN/Malamud Award with writer Tobias Wolff, counts author (and former teacher) Jonathan Franzen among his fans — which swirled up some controversy when Franzen picked Haslett’s debut story collection as the second book club selection for The Today Show‘s series in 2002. Tonight, though, Haslett was here to read from Hardy’s book of essays.

Adam Haslett

Afterwards, Hardy and Mullen joined Sanchez on the stage for a conversation about their inspirations (James Baldwin being a major one, across the board) and the challenges facing writers of color today.

PEN panel

The PEN website carries excerpts from the winning author’s books, audio clips of the readings, and photos far better than the ones I was able to take from the audience.

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