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2020 Chicago Public Library Foundation Awards: Celebrating Great Stories in a Year Full of Plot Twists

Each year, the Chicago Public Library Foundation honors the artists who bring great stories to life—who challenge us, inspire us, and help us see the world in ways we never knew possible.

Stories have the power to create social change and inspire communities. Now more than ever, we need to be inspired and moved into action by powerful stories. Here are some of the most vital narratives of this generation, written by Isabel Wilkerson, our Carl Sandburg Literary Award honoree, and Nate Marshall, our 21st Century Award honoree.

Caste: The Origin of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
The New York Times hails Wilkerson’s latest work as “an instant American classic and the keynote nonfiction book of the American century.” Caste dives deep into the machinations that have pervaded the American culture, politics, and society—a system that empowered one group to stigmatize and dehumanize another. Caste brings us to a historical journey of brutality, discomfort, pain, realization, and ultimately, hope. Wilkerson wants us to recognize that as entrenched the caste system is into the fabric of American society, it can be dismantled, setting everyone free. Grab a copy of Caste here.

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson 
Isabel Wilkerson’s debut book is an epic narrative that chronicles the exodus of black citizens from the South to northern and western cities, in search of a better life. This decade-long migration led to a drastic shift in American society. With her masterful storytelling, Wilkerson not only captures the treacherous cross-country journey of Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling, and Robert Foster. She also encapsulated the hope, struggle, and fullness of their lives and of the six million migrants as they settled into their new homes. The Warmth Of Other Suns has brought to life one of the great untold stories of American history: the immigration within our own land and how it changed the past, influences, the present, and will shape the future. The Warmth Of Other Suns is One Book, One Chicago’s 2013-14 selection. Check out the book here.

Finna by Nate Marshall
Nate Marshall writes, “My hope is like my language is like my people: it’s Black & it’s brown and it’s alive.” This sentiment is in full display in Marshall’s new poetry collection, Finna. Energetic and vibrant, Marshall uses Finna as a vehicle for the Black vernacular to shine, showcasing its rhyme, rhythm, and versatility—making his poetic themes of identity, privilege, and the power of language resonate even more. Read Marshall’s refreshing work here.

Wild Hundreds by Nate Marshall
Nate Marshall’s debut work is a powerful collection of poems and prose that details the voice of a young Black man as he navigates family, friendships, and his journey to manhood all while reconciling the physical and mental dangers of living in the wild hundred streets of the South Side of Chicago. Marshall’s words paint multifaceted imagery that is as visceral as it is thought-provoking. The narrative experiences he highlights through his poems serve as an intersection between the personal (dealing with the trauma of his friends’ violent deaths) and the sociopolitical (the system that imperils a Black man’s life). His stories ring true now as it did when he wrote this masterpiece in 2015. Read Wild Hundreds here.

Meet Isabel Wilkerson and Nate Marshall at the first virtual Chicago Public Library Foundation Awards. Every Library love is welcome on December 9, at 6:30 pm via live stream. The event is free and gifts at all levels are welcome. Reserve your spot and get a chance to win Isabel Wilkerson and Nate Marshall’s book lists. We’ll see you there! 

Contributions from the event will provide accessible and high-quality initiatives, programs, and services Chicagoans rely on across 81 library branches and 77 neighborhoods.