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A Note From The Director

Langston Hughes Festival
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A Note From The Director

The Langston Hughes Festival announces its 38th annual award ceremony, scheduled for Thursday, November 16, 2017.

We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.
--Langston Hughes, The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain [1926]

When I write I am trying to express my way of being in the world. This is primarily a process of elimination: once you have removed all the dead language, the second-hand dogma, the truths that are not your own but other people's, the mottos, the slogans, the out-and-out lies of your nation, the myths of your historical moment - once you have removed all that warps experience into a shape you do not recognize and do not believe in - what you are left with is something approximating the truth of your own conception.
--Zadie Smith, Fail Better [2007]

We are thrilled to award the 2017 Langston Hughes medal to Zadie Smith who burst onto the literary scene in 2000 with her first novel White Teeth, which was the winner of The Whitbread First Novel Award, The Guardian First Book Award, The James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, and The Commonwealth Writers' First Book Award. Her second novel, The Autograph Man, won The Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize. Zadie Smith's third novel, On Beauty, won the Orange Prize for Fiction, The Commonwealth Writers' Best Book Award (Eurasia Section) and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Her fourth novel, NW, was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Women's Prize for Fiction. Her most recent novel, Swing Time, was published in November 2016 and has been shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. She published an essay collection, Changing My Mind, in 2009 and a second collection, Feel Free will be published in early 2018. in She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has twice been listed as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists. Zadie Smith writes regularly for the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books and is a tenured professor of creative writing at New York University.

Whether she is writing a novel about the complexities of female friendship and selfhood, channeling the voice of Billie Holiday in a short story, or penning prose on the nature of writing, or examining recent cultural touchstones such as Jay –Z or Jordan Peele's Get Out, Zadie Smith's writings are unapologetically honest and the reflection of a lively and complex mind free with itself.

Our daylong celebration culminates in a 6:30 PM ceremony where we will award Zadie Smith with the Langston Hughes Medal at Aaron Davis Hall.

We hope to see you in November!

Retha Powers, Director