Marlon James wins Anisfield-Wolf prize for fiction

Marlon James, photographed at Jumel Terrace Books in Harlemin September, has won the Anisfield-Wolf prize in fiction for his novel "A Brief History of Seven Killings."
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

The $10,000 Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, which recognize books that make important contributions to the understanding of racism and cultural diversity, have named Marlon James as this year’s fiction winner for his novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings.”

Other winners include David Brion Davis, whose most recent book, “The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation,” won the National Book Critics Circle Prize in nonfiction last month. Davis was recognized with a lifetime achievement award. Richard S. Dunn gets the Anisfeld-Wolf prize in nonfiction for “A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia.” In the first year presenting an Anisfield-Wolf prize in poetry, it will be split between two poets, Jericho Brown for “The New Testament” and Marilyn Chin for “Hard Love Province,” who will each recieve $5,000.

The Anisfield-Wolf prizes have been awarded since 1935. Previous winners include Zora Neale Hurston, Alan Paton, Langston Hughes, Alex Haley, Maxine Hong Kingston, Martin Luther King Jr., Richard Rodriguez, Toni Morrison, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Toi Derricotte, Jamaica Kincaid, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Mohsin Hamid, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zadie Smith, Junot Diaz, John Edgar Wideman and Colson Whitehead.

James told the Washington Post that he was “stunned and seriously humbled” to hear he’d won the prize. “It’s strange when you win an award that your heroes have won,” he said via email. “You’re tempted to think that it means you’ve arrived, but it really means that you have so much more work to do.”

The prizes will be presented at a ceremony in Cleveland, where the awards are based, on Sept. 10.


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