October 25, 2010
CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY FOUNDATION AND CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY’S CARL SANDBURG LITERARY AWARDS DINNER RAISES MORE THAN $1.1 MILLION
Mayor Daley and Oprah Winfrey Among Guests on Hand to Salute Toni Morrison and Eula Biss
CHICAGO — More than 700 guests came together for a not-to-be-forgotten feast for the mind as well as the palate when the Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Public Library Foundation honored author Toni Morrison with the Carl Sandburg Literary Award. The Oct. 20 event at the beautifully transformed Forum on the campus of University of Illinois at Chicago raised more than $1.1 million to support the initiatives of the Chicago Public Library.
Morrison’s great writing served as the centerpiece of the evening, both figuratively and in actuality. After guests thumbed through the copies of Morrison’s novels that artfully formed the centerpieces on each table, they enjoyed hearing the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer in a provocative and frank conversation with Oprah Winfrey, Morrison’s longtime friend who has chosen several of her books for Oprah’s Book Club and produced and starred in a film based on Morrison’s Beloved. Mayor Daley, who has opened 54 Chicago Public Library branches thus far in his tenure leading the City, also was on hand to fete Morrison, as well as Northwestern University’s Eula Biss, who was honored with the 21st Century Award. To cap the evening, both authors signed copies of their books for guests.
Event Co-Chairs were Mesirow Financial Chairman and CEO Jim Tyree and Cheryl Mayberry McKissack, President and CEO of Nia Enterprises. McKissack is also a member of the Chicago Public Library Foundation Board. The guest list for the evening included Chicago Public Library Board of Directors President Jayne Carr Thompson, Chicago Public Library Foundation Board of Directors Chairman Emeritus Cindy Pritzker, Chicago Public Library Foundation Board of Directors Chairman James R. Donnelley, University of Illinois at Chicago Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares, Desiree Rogers, Shawn Donnelley, Sandra Rand, Gigi Pritzker Pucker, Peter Bynoe, Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and Maria Bechily, among others.
Professor Morrison, one of the most provocative and respected novelists of our time, received the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, which is presented each year to an author whose significant body of work has enhanced the public’s awareness of the written word. Morrison is the author of nine novels and three children’s books. Her novel Beloved was awarded the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and in 2006 was named by the New York Times Book Review as the best novel of the previous 25 years. Morrison became a professor at Princeton University in 1989 and in 1993 received the Nobel Prize in Literature, making her the first African American to be so honored.
Eula Biss teaches non-fiction writing at Northwestern University and is a founding editor of Essay Press. Her recent book of essays, Notes From No Man’s Land, was honored as this year’s best work of literary criticism by the National Book Critics Circle.
Past winners of the prestigious Carl Sandburg Literary Award include David McCullough, Robert Caro, Joyce Carol Oates, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Kurt Vonnegut, John Updike, David Mamet, Nikki Giovanni, Tom Wolfe and Salman Rushdie.
This fall the Chicago Public Library celebrated Toni Morrison’s most recent novel, A Mercy, as the 19th selection for Chicago’s city-wide book club One Book, One Chicago.
A Mercy is set in the late 17th century, and tells the story of a young girl, Florens, as well as others on the Northeast American farm where she is a slave—Lina, a Native American woman who nurtures the orphaned Florens, the Anglo-Dutch landowner Jacob Vaark, his English wife, Rebekka, an unstable and elusive slave named Sorrow, two white European indentured servants named Willard and Scully, and more. Morrison’s story provides an insightful look into a time when the burgeoning American economy was being built on the institution of slavery, but slavery was not yet defined by race. A Mercy is a rich and accurate portrait of this early American society, and the people who struggled to survive within it.
About the Chicago Public Library Foundation and the Chicago Public Library
The Chicago Public Library Foundation was founded in 1986 as a true public/private partnership with the City of Chicago to ensure the margin of excellence for Chicago’s outstanding Library. Through the support of many civic-minded individuals, corporations and foundations, the Foundation provides ongoing funding for collections and a variety of community-responsive programs include the Summer Reading Program, Teacher in the Library, CyberNavigators and One Book, One Chicago. In the past 24 years, the Foundation has provided more than $40 million in support to the Chicago Public Library.
Since 1873, the Chicago Public Library has encouraged lifelong learning by welcoming all people and offering equal access to information, entertainment and knowledge through materials, programs and cutting-edge technology. The Chicago Public Library is comprised of the Harold Washington Library Center, two regional libraries and more than 70 neighborhood branches. All locations provide free access to a rich collection of books, DVDs, audio books and music; the Internet and WiFi; sophisticated research databases, many of which can be accessed from a home or office computer; newspapers and magazines; and continue to serve as cultural centers, presenting the highest quality author discussions, exhibits and programs for children, teens and adults.