Assistant Professor Shane McCrae Wins Anisfield-Wolf Book Award

March 30, 2018

Assistant Professor Shane McCrae was awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the only national juried prize for literature that confronts racism and studies diversity.


McCrae was one of four authors to receive the prize, which was unveiled by The Cleveland Foundation, for his book of poetry, In The Language of My Captor.


In his fifth book, McCrae explores the connections between racism and love. He uses historical persona poems and prose memoir to interrogate history, perspective and the illusion of freedom of both black and white Americans.


“These voices worm their way inside your head,” said Anisfield-Wolf Juror Rita Dove. “Deceptively simple language layers complexity upon complexity until we are shared in the same socialized racial webbing as the African exhibited at the zoo or the Jim Crow universe that Banjo Yes learned to survive in (‘You can be free//Or you can live’).”


McCrae is among such esteemed writers as N. Scott Momaday, Jesmyn Ward and Kevin Young.


Marlon James, a 2015 Anisfield-Wolf honoree, made the announcement.


“The new Anisfield-Wolf winners deepen our insights on race and diversity,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr., who chairs the jury.


“This year, we honor a lyrical novel haunted by a Mississippi prison farm, a book of exceptional poetry on what freedom means in captivity, and a breakthrough history of the hoax that speaks to this political moment,” he continued. “All is capped by the lifetime achievement of N. Scott Momaday, the dean of Native American letters.”


The winners will be honored September 27 at the State Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio, in a ceremony led by Gates. The ceremony will be part of the third annual Cleveland Book Week, which runs September 24-29.