World Literature Today, the University of Oklahoma’s award-winning magazine of international literature and culture, recently was awarded the 2019 APEX Grand Award for Publication Excellence in the Magazines, Journals and Tabloids category.
This distinction, awarded in 2019 to only 100 publications in a field of 1,200 applicants, is based on the WLT May 2018 issue featuring a cover by renowned Lithuanian artist Gediminas Pranckevičius with a special section on speculative fiction.
Robert Con Davis-Undiano, the magazine’s executive director, said that the award comes at a time in which WLT “is reaching a record 1 million readers a year and is continuing to attract sophisticated audiences who expect both style and substance.”
The APEX winners exhibit excellence in graphic design, editorial content, and the success of the entry in achieving overall communication effectiveness.
The APEX Awards for Publication Excellence, which celebrated its 30th year in 2018, are sponsored by Communication Concepts based in Virginia, which advises publishing, public relations, and marketing professionals on best practices to improve their publications and communication programs.
World Literature Today magazine was previously the recipient of APEX Awards of Excellence in 2008, 2011 and 2012 and a Grand Award in 2007.
Founded in 1927, World Literature Today’s mission is to serve the international, state and university communities by achieving excellence as a literary publication, a sponsor of literary prizes and a cultural center for students.
As an author, when people ask you about the inspiration behind your first book, the last thing they expect you to say is Facebook. But that’s what it was for me, a single post that gained 45 comments and 104 likes.
On 6 December 2017, I went to TK Maxx in Lewisham to grab a few last bits before the girls’ trip away to Singapore. As I walked towards the entrance, a beautiful tall Black guy with dreads walked out. He was on his phone, but looked up as I walked past him. In that brief moment, we exchanged smiles and I continued into the store. He was really good looking. I looked back, so did he at the same time and I decided to approach. I was nervous, but lessons from the past gave me the courage to just go for it.
I introduced myself and complimented him on his long, neat dreads, before asking whether he was single. He was. Forty, single, 6ft tall and was happy to give me his number. He thanked me for coming over and returned the compliments before we went our separate ways. I was swift, borderline clinical, but I got the result I wanted, in spite of being new to this.
“Ladies, you will be so proud of me…” is how my post on Facebook began, and ended with “Don’t expect an update with this one… okay maybe x.”
My Facebook friends were excited for me and they loved my courage but, bigger than that, they genuinely hoped it would work out well for me, while acknowledging my random encounter meant there was still hope for them. Hope that they could find love in their mid-thirties and beyond. The Black love story is rarely told on screen, and if it is, our reference points are likely to have come from American Black films, like Love Jones and Love and Basketball; through 1990s R’n’B and neo soul music with songs like “Let’s Get Married” by Jagged Edge and “Ready for Love” by India Arie; we want and deserve that type of love in reality.
I decided to go back and compile all my posts that shared my dating experiences. Over eight years (2010-2018) I had shared snippets of my thoughts, feelings and frustrations ranging from my series of bad dates, good dates, my reluctance to join dating apps and everything in-between. I tried to work out what I was “meant to be doing” on the surface to get a man. How to approach? How to be more open when approached? How to be more engaging on dating apps? How to attract a good man … who had what I was looking for … and wanted what I had? Deep down knowing that submerged below the tip of the iceberg was a deep sense of hopelessness, loneliness and issues around my desirability and concerns around my biological clock ticking. What began as an unknown memoir turned into a romance novel with an array of themes and experiences told from the perspective of Symona Brown, a 37-year-old Black woman from south London.
Symona calls an emergency Single Summit with her close friends, and announces she is actively ready to up her game and start dating. As she reflects through her memories from one Mr to another, she reveals her sensual, hilarious and downright frustrating encounters. She finds herself asking: “What does it mean to be a Black woman trying to exist, date and find love?”
Our stories tend to be told from the lens of social injustices, which often goes hand in hand with trauma. Bumble’s campaign #MyLoveIsBlackLove is the most recent attempt to show Black love in a more positive light. However, while representation is important and needed across all forms of media (independent and mainstream), people of African descent shouldn’t wait for the media to reflect back to us what we need to see. We have to ensure that we reflect and engage in self-exploration so that our sense of who we are and self-love is already within us.
Identity and belonging go hand in hand on issues of inclusion within the romance literary scene. There should be a place for diverse narratives of the Black British experience because there are multicultural audiences. However, cultural differences, perspectives and references have to be understood in the first place. This is part of the problem within the literary world (and other sectors) where there is a severe lack of representation across the board. It means the cultural perspectives of these stories aren’t understood, deemed as worthy, or are simply rendered unmarketable. In turn, these biased decisions not only block livelihoods, but they also exclude a plethora of diverse narratives – and published Black writers within the romance genre are lacking as a result.
Margarita Engle will deliver the keynote address for the Neustadt Lit Fest at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Reynolds Performing Arts Center, 560 Parrington Oval, on the University of Oklahoma Norman campus. The event is free and open to the public.
Engle’s keynote address, “Two Cultures, Two Wings,” celebrates her contribution to young adult and children’s literature.
Engle (b. 1951) is the Cuban American author of many verse novels. Her books have received multiple awards, including the Newbery Honor for The Surrender Tree and a PEN USA Award for The Lightning Dreamer. She is the 2017–2019 National Young People’s Poet Laureate and USBBY’s 2019 nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Award, the world’s most renowned prize for children’s literature.
“Margarita Engle is a writer near the pinnacle of young-adult and children’s literature,” noted Robert Con Davis-Undiano, World Literature Today’s executive director. “I’m so proud that the NSK Neustadt Prize will be the award pushing her to the very top.”
World Literature Today, the University of Oklahoma’s award-winning magazine of international literature and culture, announced Engle as the winner of the biennial NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature during the 2018 Neustadt Lit Fest. NSK winners receive $35,000, a silver medallion, and a certificate.
2019 Neustadt Lit Fest Events
The 2019 Lit Fest will feature public discussions with Engle and other visiting writers.
Engle will deliver remarks and sign copies of her works at the “Neustadt Night at the Museum: A Reception, Celebration, and Book Signing,” at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, in the Sandy Bell Gallery of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, 555 Elm Ave..
Kathy Neustadt, one of the co-founders of the NSK Prize, will announce the winner of the 2020 Neustadt International Prize for Literature at that event, and almost 20 visiting writers will be available to sign their books. Refreshments will be provided.
Engle and YA novelist Lilliam Rivera, who nominated Engle for the NSK, will hold a public discussion about writing young adult fiction at noon Wednesday, Oct. 16, in the Scholars Room (Room 315) of Oklahoma Memorial Student Union, 900 Asp Ave.
The event will be followed by a book signing. There will be a free lunch, but attendees must RSVP for the event.
Rivera will speak about Engle and her influence on children’s literature at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, in the same location.
The festival will open with a roundtable discussion on Cuba and Cuban-American relations, featuring OU professors Sarah Hines, Tassie Katherine Hirschfeld, and Nancy LaGreca. Moderated by Charles Kenney, the roundtable will begin at noon Tuesday, Oct. 15, in the Scholars Room (Room 315) of the Union and will be followed by a Q&A session. The event is co-sponsored by OU’s Center for the Americas. There will be a free lunch, but attendees must RSVP.
Other festival highlights will include:
A dance performance by students from OU’s Contemporary Dance Oklahoma, who will perform adaptations of poems from Engle’s The Surrender Tree. Set to music composed by Caleb Westby and featuring original choreography by Austin Hartel, Leslie Kraus. and Roxanne Lyst, the performance will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Reynolds Performing Arts Center and will precede Engle’s keynote address.
The 2020 Neustadt Prize jury and visiting writers will read from their work and sign books at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, in the Scholars Room of the Union. Participating will be Anna Badkhen, Kapka Kassabova, Joseph Legaspi, Philip Metres, Dunya Mikhail, André Naffis-Sahely, Vi Khi Nao, Felipe Restrepo Pombo, Katherena Vermette, Lilliam Rivera, and J. L. Powers. Refreshments will be provided.
Visiting writers Edith Campbell, J. L. Powers, and Katherena Vermette will host a roundtable discussion on multicultural trends in YA literature at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Scholars Room.
This year’s Lit Fest is partially supported by a grant from the Norman Arts Council. For a complete listing of all the 2019 Neustadt Lit Fest events, go to https://www.neustadtprize.org/events/event/. For more information and accommodations, call (405) 325-4531.
About the NSK Neustadt Prize
Established in 2003 by Nancy Barcelo, Susan Neustadt Schwartz, and Kathy Neustadt, the prize is awarded every other year to a living writer dedicated to having a positive impact on the quality of children’s and young-adult literature.
Kathy Neustadt sees the award increase as an important step to bringing the prestige of the NSK Prize into parity with mainstream awards. She commented that people need to treat “children’s and young adult literature as important in their own right, which they are!”
The Neustadt Prize website was relaunched in 2019 to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, begun in 1969 (neustadtprize.org).
The site’s newly launched Education Network provides free downloads of teaching curricula focused on Neustadt and NSK Prize-winning authors.
A jury of children’s and young adult writers, illustrators, and scholars nominate the candidates for the NSK Prize. The jury also selects the winner in a process that WLT Executive Director Robert Con Davis-Undiano describes as an “exciting adventure in which the best writers and scholars in the world praise and advocate for their own writer heroes.”
Past winners include Mildred Taylor (2003), Brian Doyle (2005), Katherine Paterson (2007), Vera B. Williams (2009), Virginia Euwer Wolff (2011), Naomi Shihab Nye (2013), Meshack Asare (2015) and Marilyn Nelson (2017).
Sotheby’s has postponed the auction of a “lost library” of British literature so institutions including the Bronte Parsonage and British Library can try to raise the £15m needed to stop it being bought by a private collector.
The haul includes rare handwritten poems by Emily Brontë, works by Robert Burns and Jane Austen first editions.
The collection recently re-emerged after almost 100 years in obscurity.
Campaigners are “profoundly grateful” to Sotheby’s for postponing the sale.
The auction house had initially planned three sales, starting in July, with Bronte’s poems expected to fetch between £800,000 and £1.2m, and a first edition of her novel Wuthering Heights between £200,000 and £300,000.
World Literature Today, the University of Oklahoma’s award-winning magazine of international literature and culture, has announced finalists for the 2022 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. This prestigious prize recognizes significant contributions to world literature and has a history as a lead-up to the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The nominees (with representative texts noted) for the 2022 Neustadt Prize, which carries a $50,000 cash award, are as follows:
Jean-Pierre Balpe (France), Herbier Anglais
Kwame Dawes (Ghana / Jamaica), Prophets
Natalie Diaz (United States), Postcolonial Love Poem
Boris Boubacar Diop (Senegal), Murambi: The Book of Bones
Michális Ganás (Greece), A Greek Ballad: Selected Poems
Micheline Aharonian Marcom (United States), Three Apples Fell from Heaven
Naomi Shihab Nye (United States), The Tiny Journalist
Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (Russia), There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby
Cristina Rivera Garza (Mexico), The Iliac Crest
Reina María Rodríguez (Cuba), The Winter Garden Photograph
The finalists’ full bio can be found here.
Ten Neustadt jurors, all creative writers, chose the finalists; they will meet to choose the winner at the 2021 Neustadt Lit Fest, scheduled for Oct. 25–27. The literary festival is hosted by World Literature Today and the University of Oklahoma.
“This jury continues the tradition of having top-tier international writers assessing the work of peers,” said Robert Con Davis-Undiano, executive director of World Literature Today, the prize sponsor. “Literature is a key component of our ability to recognize what makes us human, and the work of the Neustadt jury year after year is a contemporary tribute to the critical place that literature has in our lives.”
The winner announcement will be made on Tuesday, Oct. 26, during the Neustadt Lit Fest, which this year also honors Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), laureate of the 2021 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature. Festival events are free and open to the public.
The Neustadt Prize is the first international literary award of this scope to originate in the United States and is one of the very few international prizes for which poets, novelists, screenwriters and playwrights are equally eligible. Since 2003, it has been awarded every other year, alternating with the NSK Prize, to a living writer in recognition of a significant body of work. Past winners include Czesław Miłosz, Gabriel García Márquez and Edwidge Danticat. The 2020 Neustadt Prize winner was Albanian author Ismail Kadare.
Winners of the Neustadt Prize are awarded $50,000, a silver replica of an eagle feather, a prize certificate and a festival hosted in their honor. A generous endowment from the Neustadt family supports the award.
To learn more about the Neustadt prizes, visit neustadtprize.org.
SISTERS OF THE NEVERSEA
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
It’s difficult to tell whether Cynthia Leitich Smith’s new middle grade novel, “Sisters of the Neversea,” is a well-intentioned attempt at a rewrite of J. M. Barrie’s 1911 novel “Peter Pan” (originally titled “Peter and Wendy”); a response to it; or a creative reimagining. Maybe it’s all three, which might be part of the reason it can feel a little convoluted.
The author of the award-winning 2018 young adult novel “Hearts Unbroken” chooses, at first, to focus her readers’ attention on Wendy Darling and her stepsister, Lily. Wendy’s mother has died and her father has remarried a Native woman — who, like Smith, is Muscogee Creek, and who comes with a son and daughter of her own, John and Lily. The Darlings also have been transported forward in time, from Victorian England to modern-day Tulsa, Okla. Soon Wendy will travel to Neverland, accompanied by her younger half brother, Michael, and eventually Lily. (John has graduated from high school and doesn’t play much of a role here.)
It’s important to note that Barrie’s portrayal of Native Americans in “Peter Pan” is, shall we say, extremely problematic. Peter calls them “Piccaninnies.” Barrie’s narrator describes them as “savages.” Women are subject to the narrator’s contempt as well; they serve at the whims of male characters. Tiger Lily, a proud “redskin” girl, is a pawn whom the males — Peter Pan and Captain Hook among them — spar over. “Coquettish, cold and amorous by turns,” the young Native princess is also, Barrie intimates, in love with the immature, inconstant Peter Pan.
Smith has a way with description. She has a keen eye and deep affinity for the natural world. Her verbal rendering of place and texture — of sound, color and mood — is beautifully evocative. And she writes the island of Neverland as a complicated character in and of itself. Sadly, she isn’t always able to do the same with her human charges, to make them fully believable and distinct. This includes Peter Pan, who is mostly portrayed as a “Lord of the Flies”-like monster — he kills lion cubs and terrorizes people and animals alike — until he has a sudden change of heart, and all the destruction he’s left behind is forgiven.