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2008 Pen Oakland Josephine Miles National Literary Awards

By Javier Huerta

Oakland, the city in which I live, is home to two national book awards—the American Book Award and the Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Award—that challenge the hegemonic judgment of the literary establishment. The force behind these awards is multiculturalism, a belief that “sweetness and light” is multiple and diverse. I tend to trust the Oakland awards more (though I suppose I still hold a mistrust for all awards, for that Lehman Tendency to rank the best of the best of the best) than the Big Three because they seem to be more accurately representative of what’s being published in the United States today.
Here is an announcement of the 2008 Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Awards:
PEN Oakland & The Oakland Public Library Announce the Winners of the PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles 18th Annual National Literary Awards & 12th Annual PEN Oakland Censorship Award Saturday, December 6th, 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM in Oakland Free To The Public
On Saturday, December 6th, come celebrate well-known and emerging Bay Area and international authors who will be honored for excellence in multicultural literature at the 18th Annual PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles National Literary Awards.
PEN Oakland, A Bay Area Chapter of the International Organization of Poets, Essayists, and Novelists, was founded in 1989 to address multicultural issues, and educate the public as to the nature of multicultural work. These award-winning authors address the diversity and uniqueness of American culture, and represent the new voices of American literature. The late Josephine Miles, in whose honor the awards are presented, was a highly regarded poet, critic, and professor of English at the University of California in Berkeley.


On May 15th, PEN Oakland Vice President Reginald Lockett died. In his honor, PEN Oakland has named its Lifetime Achievement Award, the Reginald Lockett Lifetime Achievement Award. This year’s winners are poet Diane di Prima, and playwright Adrienne Kennedy. Allen Ginsberg said of Diane, “A great woman poet in second half of American century, she broke barriers of race-class identity, delivered a major body of verse brilliant in its particularity.”
Adrienne Kennedy was a key figure in the Blacks Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. She is best known for her first major play “Funnyhouse of a Negro,” winner of the 1964 Obie Award for most distinguished play. In 1995, critic Michael Feingold of the Village Voice declared that “with Beckett gone, Adrienne Kennedy is probably the boldest artist now writing for the theater.”
The PEN Oakland Censorship Award will be given to Project Censored, for its ongoing research on national news stories ignored, misrepresented or censored by the U.S. corporate media, in particular important stories about the nationwide move to impeach President George W. Bush and the fact that over one million Iraqis have lost their lives since the 2003 invasion, with more than 50% of those deaths attributable to U.S. troops and their allies. Based on the premise that an uninformed or misinformed public cannot make valid policy decisions via the ballot box, PEN Oakland honors this organization for their efforts to bring facts to light that are willfully buried by many mainstream media outlets.
A reception will be held after the awards where the public will have an opportunity to meet the authors, and purchase signed copies of their award winning books. During the program, winners will be presented with a plaque and asked to read selections from their work.
For more information, please call (510) 681-5652.
2008 Josephine Miles National Literary Awards winners are:

Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics (Essays) by Rebecca Solnit (University of California Press)
187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971—2007 (Poetry & Short Stories) by Juan Felipe Herrera (City Lights)
Sleeping with the Moon (Poetry) by Colleen J. McElroy (Illinois Poetry Series)

The Stillness of Love and Exile (Fiction) by Rosa Martha Villarreal (Tertulia Press)

Dude, Where’s My Black Studies Department? The Disappearance of Black Americans from U.S. Universities (Non-Fiction) by Cecil Brown (North Atlantic Books)

Apex Hides the Hurt: A Novel (Fiction) by Colson Whitehead (Anchor)
About Now: Collected Poems (Poetry) by Joanne Kyger (National Poetry Foundation)


Posted in Uncategorized on Sunday, November 23rd, 2008 by Javier Huerta.