Book lovers, boxing fans and history buffs gathered at the Parma-Snow Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library on April 3 to hear Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards-winning poet Adrian Matejka read from his new book “Last on His Feet,” a graphic novel about the life of Jack Johnson, the first Black heavyweight boxing champion.
“Boxing is such a beautiful and elegant sport,” he said. “I think we sometimes get caught up in the idea of someone getting knocked out when in fact, it’s everything before that and around that—everything that’s not a punch—that’s most interesting.”
Matejka shared how his mother’s love of boxing introduced him to the sport and Johnson’s story. He read several selections from this latest book—a project a decade in the making that grew out of the research he started when writing his AWBA-winning work “The Big Smoke.” He also discussed Johnson’s historical impact with Justin Glanville, senior producer for community storytelling at Ideastream Public Media.
“Jack Johnson was part of so many profound historical events…he was in this space where everything around us changed,” Matejka said.
After their discussion, Matejka announced the 88th class of Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards winners:
- Geraldine Brooks, “Horse,” Fiction (Viking)
- Lan Samantha Chang, “The Family Chao,” Fiction (W.W. Norton)
- Matthew F. Delmont, “Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad,” Nonfiction (Viking)
- Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Lifetime Achievement
- Saeed Jones, “Alive at the End of the World,” Poetry (Coffee House Press)
You can watch the full event here:
And you can watch members of the Anisfield-Wolf jury celebrate the new honorees here:
Visit www.Anisfield-Wolf.org to learn more and save the date for the awards ceremony Thursday, Sept. 28 at the Maltz Performing Arts Center at Case Western Reserve University.