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A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Carolyn's Second Annual "Noble" Prizes for Literature

     Let's hear a drum roll! This is my second "Noble" prize for literature. I inaugurated it because the "Nobel Prize for Literature," is so exclusionary, so esoteric that it often misses the mark. (For more of last year's rant on this subject, read this prize's inaugural column in the archives here at

     It's not that the Nobel judges don't choose exquisite writing that elucidates the essential, immutable quality of the spirit. It's that they choose only one. That one is rarely a woman and, although, the United States of America certainly does not have anywhere near a stranglehold, they frequently bypass Americans. That means that they miss many authors that are pertinent to American readers and, to top it off, they certainly never even consider really new voices.

     Last year I set out to name ten and managed somehow to list a couple more by not insisting that the book be published in the year the prize was given and by pulling from several years' reading. This year I have no such advantage!

     Time magazine reported that Sara Nelson decided to run a reader marathon this year. She read nearly "around the clock for almost a year" and came up with enough books (52) to write So Many Books, So Little time: A Year of Passionate Reading. My sentiments exactly. Trouble is, if I tried to do that I wouldn't have time to get my UCLA class ready for the fall of 2004 much less work on both my novel and book of poetry in progress!

     So, this year my search for fine literary voices that sing a song with their stories and their words, authors who make the world a better place by examining the human condition. I still do not ignore older book or even well-known works but I want to include-always-authors that the laureates and major editors of the world know nothing or very little about. Readers shouldn't assume, as they often do with the Nobel Prize, that I have considered all the possible worthy candidates.

     So with a nod to Author Sara Nelson's determination, here is my list-nowhere near 52. Still each of them is Noble-if not Nobel material.

Carolyn's 2003 Noble List of 2003 for 2004 Reading

These are numbered for ease of reading but are in no particular order.

1. John M. Coetzee who was awarded the Nobel this year for portraying "the surprising involvement of the outsider."

2. To David Hernandez for A House Waiting for Music. This is a gritty book of poetry with surprising turns that are sure to nudge you toward reconsidering the platitudes in your own "book of memories."

3. To Lee Nelson who, along with Mark Twain (no, I'm not kidding!) wrote Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians. This book was over-looked in a flurry of scholarly productions on the subject of Huckleberry Finn and Twain published by the University of California.

4. To Randall Silvis for a lovely book called Mysticus that cannot be categorized.

5. To Rose Lewis for the sweetest board book for children I've ever seen called I Love You Like Crazy Cakes. So it isn't adult, literary fiction, this award is for stuff that's been overlooked by the big guys, remember!

6. And, in the same spirit, to Amy Ferris for you young adult story featuring one of the most delightful fictional characters to come along in years. It's called A Greater Goode Adults will love it, too.

7. To D. Herrle for a very hard-to-find book of poetry called Doomsinger Smiles. Don't go to Barnes and Noble for this new voice, go to

8. To Martha Ronk for Displeasures of the Table. This is a tiny book of not quite poetry. Maybe it's a new genre-flash essays, perhaps?

9. To Lila Abud-Lughod for her scholarly book, Veiled Sentiments. She is an anthropologist; her language may be a bit academic for many, but her observations add substantially to our culture's understanding of the lives Muslim women lead.

10. To Sarah Mankowski for her effort to expose new voices to mainstream reading with her Yarrow Brook Literary Review. A few copies of the last edition are still available at

     An honorable mention to Gail Collins for her nonfiction, America's Women. She explores the human condition from a feminine perspective; by the time we turn the last page we can see how "then" affects "now."

    And I'd like to encourage you all to read my most recent book of nonfiction, Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered. I believe it connects with the heart and memories of families everywhere for no single story is ever an isolated event but springs from the humanity of its characters.

Last Year's Winners of Carolyn's Noble Prize for Literature in Brief
(These are repeated from last year's selections because they are all still valid.
Please search the MyShelf archives more complete information.)

1. Nobel Prize-Winner Toni Morrison
2. First Time Novelist Leora G. Krygier
3. Harper Lee
4. Ralph Ellison
5. Tamin Ansary
6. Kristie Leigh Maguire's E-mails from the Edge
7. Nora Okja
8. Gail Jenner
9. Imre Kertesz's
10. Reuben Ainsztein's
11. Wayne Karlin's
12. Joanne Harris 13.


Tips and Tidbits

Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a writing or promotion tidbit that will help authors and a tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.

Writers' Tidbit: I have two tidbits this month:
1. My Thanks for this one to Norm Goldman, Editor of Reviewers and publishers may be interested in a Yahoo group called My Book Is Out. Authors announce when they have a new book just published. Reviewers pick from the available books. This is the email address to sign up: My

Writers of short stories will also find helpful. Long Story Short is edited by Denise Cassino and, though it is not a paying market, they do offer critiques.

Readers' Tip: Use's Listmania feature for suggested reading. When you open a page look at the links on the right hand side. There you'll find well-loved books by every day readers as well as experts. The best Listmanias will even give you a little personal input on each of the selected books.

2004 Past Columns

Carolyn's Second Annual "Noble Prizes for Literature

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