Peter J. Harris Awarded a 2015 American Book Award

I am abob688331e-ba32-4f2c-b8e4-315403244c24ut a week late in posting this. Last week it was announced by the Before Columbus Foundation that Los Angeles poet, Peter J. Harris, won an American Book Award for his book of personal essays, The Black Man of Happiness. He is a native of Southeast DC and an alumnus of Ballou High School and Howard University. He is also the author of Bless the Ashes, poetry (Tia Chucha Press). He has published his work in a wide variety of publications since the 1970s. Since 1992, he’s been a member of the Anansi Writers Workshop at the World Stage, in LA’s Leimert Park. Mike Sonksen at has said this about Harris:

Peter J. Harris [is] one of the most prominent voices from Leimert Park, over the last 20 years, “The Black Man of Happiness” is a nearly 350-page tome that includes 20 powerful essays interspersed with a few poetic interludes. Harris asks the simple question, “What is a happy Black man?” Before he defines this in a myriad of ways, he also identifies the obstacles that get in the way. Harris not only debunks negative stereotypes of the African-American man, he empowers readers with his frank discussion about being a son, father, stepfather, grandfather, creating brotherhood with his gay colleague and transcending his youngest daughter’s rape by her Black stepfather. Written in a literary style that merges heartfelt sincerity, raw honesty, and humor, there is much inspiration in these pages.

The following is the entire press release from the Before Columbus Foundation, listing all the winners. Congratulations to all the winners and especially Peter J. Harris.

2015 American Book Awards
Winners of the Thirty-Sixth Annual American Book Awards

Oakland, CA—The Before Columbus Foundation announces the Winners of the Thirty-Sixth Annual AMERICAN BOOK AWARDS. The 2015 American Book Award winners will be formally recognized on Sunday, October 25th from 2:00-5:00 p.m. at the SF Jazz Center, Joe Henderson Lab, 201 Franklin Street (at Fell), San Francisco, CA. This event is open to the public.

The American Book Awards were created to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community. The purpose of the awards is to recognize literary excellence without limitations or restrictions. There are no categories, no nominees, and therefore no losers. The award winners range from well-known and established writers to under-recognized authors and first works. There are no quotas for diversity, the winners list simply reflects it as a natural process. The Before Columbus Foundation views American culture as inclusive and has always considered the term “multicultural” to be not a description of various categories, groups, or “special interests,” but rather as the definition of all of American literature. The Awards are not bestowed by an industry organization, but rather are a writers’ award given by other writers.

The 2015 American Book Award Winners are:

Hisham Aidi
Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture (Vintage)

Arlene Biala
her beckoning hands (Word Poetry)

Arthur Dong
Forbidden City, USA: Chinese American Nightclubs, 1936-1970 (DeepFocus Productions)

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
An Indigenous People’s History of the United States (Beacon Press)

Peter J. Harris
The Black Man of Happiness (Black Man of Happiness Project)

Marlon James
A Brief History of Seven Killings (Riverhead Books)

Martin Kilson
Transformation of the African American Intelligentsia, 1880–2012 (Harvard University Press)

Naomi Klein
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (Simon & Schuster)

Laila Lalami
The Moor’s Account (Pantheon)

Manuel Luis Martinez
Los Duros (Floricanto Press)

Craig Santos Perez
from unincorporated territory [guma’] (Omnidawn)

Carlos Santana, with Ashley Kahn and Hal Miller
The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light (Little, Brown and Company)

Ira Sukrungruang
Southside Buddhist (University of Tampa Press)

Astra Taylor
The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age (Henry Holt)

Lifetime Achievement:
Anne Waldman


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