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2015 Byron Caldwell Smith Book Award Lecture

Monday, August 31, 2015

LAWRENCE – The Hall Center for the Humanities has announced the winners of the 2015 Byron Caldwell Smith Book Award. One award for fiction and one for nonfiction is given each competition cycle.

The winners will receive their awards and deliver a public talk at 4 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Hall Center for the Humanities. The event is free and open to the public. A reception and book signing will also take place.

The nonfiction committee selected David Roediger, Foundation Distinguished Professor of American Studies/History at the University of Kansas, to receive the award for "Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All" (Verso Books). Roediger’s radical new history redefines the idea of freedom after the jubilee, using fresh sources and texts to build on the leading historical accounts of Emancipation and Reconstruction. Reinstating ex-slaves’ own “freedom dreams” in constructing these histories, Roediger creates a masterful account of the emancipation and its ramifications on a whole host of day-to-day concerns for whites and blacks alike, such as property relations, gender roles and labor. Committee members recognized the importance of Seizing Freedom, considering it a “work of superb scholarship and a significant contribution to the humanities writ large.”

The fiction committee selected Thomas Fox Averill, writer-in-residence and professor of English at Washburn University, to receive the award for "A Carol Dickens Christmas" (University of New Mexico Press). It’s Christmas, and Carol Dickens is in transition. Her son is about to leave for college. Her ex-husband wants to move to Arizona. Her friend Laurence, who uses a wheelchair, has fallen in love with her. To top it all off, Scraps, the family dog, is dying. As her world spins out of control, Carol seeks refuge in her research on the use of the semicolon as well as and in her yearly ritual of cooking the perfect series of holiday meals inspired by "A Christmas Carol." Reviews of the book claim it “is a book that’s more than the sum of its parts: It’s a tale of seemingly ordinary people and their more or less ordinary lives that speaks to deeper truths of what it means to be human, what it means to change, what it means to love.”

The Byron Caldwell Smith Award was established at the bequest of Kate Stephens, a former KU student and one of the university's first female professors. As an undergraduate, Stephens learned to love the study of Greek language and literature from Professor Byron Caldwell Smith. In his name, she established this award, given biennially to individuals who live or are employed in Kansas and who have written an outstanding book published in the previous two years. The next Byron Caldwell Smith Award will be given in 2017.

For more information, please contact the Hall Center via email or call (785) 864-4798.


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