Dr. Eve L. Ewing is many things – an award-winning poet, an acclaimed author, a comic book writer, and most recently, the recipient of the 21st Century Award. But she is and will always be a child of the Library.
Feels like home
On September 17, 2018, Dr. Eve L. Ewing wrote a heartwarming love note to the Library via her Instagram:
“Growing up as a kid in Chicago, the Library meant everything to me and my family. It was a place we could go safely play, explore, and learn. I have a lot of favorite library memories, but if I had to pick one, I’d say it was my mom taking us to the kids’ room at the back of the Logan Square branch, and requesting the key from the counter to unlock a special closet full of fun toys and puzzles. I would pick out an audiobook, which those days was in a zip lock bag with the picture book inside and the accompanying cassette. It felt so special and warm,” recalls Dr. Ewing.
Imagining a young Eve taking the book and the tape out from the bag as if they were the most precious things in the world — all while barely containing her excitement, is not difficult to do. But what seemed to be a simple ritual then turned out to be quite significant. The future literati was putting down her roots.
Dr. Ewing’s deep connection to Chicago Public Library only grows stronger with every step of her journey as a writer. What many may not know is that she wrote much of her critically acclaimed book, Ghosts in the Schoolyard at the Harold Washington Library Center. Aside from its rich archival collection that Dr. Ewing spent countless hours poring over, she was also emboldened by the equally rich wisdom the Library holds.
“I remain really attached and beholden to the Library,” Dr. Ewing was quoted in her interview with the Tribune.
An honor of a lifetime
Dr. Ewing is no stranger to accolades. This year alone, she was the recipient of the Richard Frisbie Award and the O.L. Davis J. Outstanding Book Award. She was also named the 2019 Writer-in-residence at the Jack Jones Literary Arts Retreat. But it’s her ties to the Library that makes receiving the 21st Century Award all the more special. It’s a coming home of sorts.
“This award is one of the biggest honors of my life, both because so many authors I admire have won it, and because the Library is so important to me. I took a poetry class at the Logan Square branch as a little kid. I wrote my dissertation at the Harold Washington Library Center. My dad used to take us to Sulzer to check out educational documentaries to watch,” shares Dr. Ewing.
“The Library has just been central to who I am.”
Inspiring the next generation of artists
As an educator (she’s currently an assistant professor at the University of Chicago where she teaches courses on race and education), Dr. Ewing is all too aware of our youth’s potential to shape both the literary and social landscapes. Much like her heroes and mentors who helped her become the author she is today; she hopes to encourage young writers to find their voices in speaking truth to power.
Dr. Ewing is always more than happy to talk poetry with a group of college students or read in an after-school program for grade-schoolers. In April, she was a panelist at the 2019 ChiTeen Lit Fest, a two-day Chicago Public Library creative workshop for teens, by teens.
“I always tell aspiring authors that the difference between a good writer and a bad one isn’t about talent. The good writer is just the one who was willing to take critical advice and revise their work. So always be willing to take feedback. And read, read, read everything you can get your hands on!”
These days Dr. Ewing finds herself on the road a lot. But wherever her work may take her, she is certain of one thing. She will always come back home.
The Chicago Public Library Foundation and Chicago Public Library will present the 21st Century Award to Dr. Eve L. Ewing at the Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner on October 10th for her outstanding achievements in literature and contributions to the people of Chicago and the Library she calls home.