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Humbled. No, this post has nothing to do with rapper Kendrick Lamar, although I wanted to cleverly employ a few lyrics from his song “Humble” but I couldn’t find words suitable (clean enough) to incorporate in this post! It has been a year since my last post. The journey chronicled in White Man’s Disease did not end upon publication in June ‘16–it will continue for the rest of my life. In some ways the leg of the journey that took place in the year since I last posted was as meaningful a part of the White Man’s Disease story as any discussed in the book.
In the last year I have received validation, over and above the many wonderful sentiments received from many of you that I have blogged about in the past and reflected in this website’s gallery. This validation came in the form of recognition from literary professionals by way of several writing contests. I am humbled and honored.
In June ‘17 I received a note from Max Rodriguez, Founder, Harlem Book Fair, that White Man’s Disease was selected as a Finalist within the Debut Nonfiction category of The Phillis Wheatley Book Awards. Harlem Book Fair is the nation’s largest African-American book fair and flagship Black literary event. The Harlem Book Fair has given Wheatley Awards to authors including Maya Angelou, Gordon Parks, and Terry McMillan—obviously not in the Debut Category! Notable authors participating have included Cornel West, Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Walter Mosley, Terry McMillan, and Touré. Just to be mentioned in association with Harlem Book Fair is an accolade I will always hold on to. I was honored to be selected as a finalist and in July was awarded Honorable Mention, First Nonfiction, sharing the top prize in the category with another author.
In August, White Man’s Disease was chosen by 2017 New Apple Summer E-Book Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing as an "Official Selection" in the Autobiography/Biography/Memoir category. One other Author won the top prize and White Man’s Disease was the runner-up.
Culminating this period of recognition, last month I received the following from The North Street Book Prize: “It gives me great pleasure to announce that you are the memoir winner of the 2017 North Street Book Prize! Our judges read 378 books and debated long through the fall and winter to determine the best.” The letter went on to mention a cash prize and marketing goodies; I am wearing my Winning Writer’s polo shirt award as I write this. Winning this competition was special; it was wonderful to be recognized for the other awards but there is just something about being the top prize winner. The North Street Book Prize judge’s commentary is here: winningwriters.com/past-winning-entries/white-mans-disease
Three years ago at my first meeting with James Abraham, owner of Book-Broker Publishers, I told him about the book I was writing: a true story of a life-changing event, and the 30-year journey that followed. Then I told him I already had chosen a title. “It’s a provocative title, but not a provocative book. You are probably going to try to change my mind. It is called White Man’s Disease...” I paused, studying James’s face for some reaction. “...despite the title, it is not about race.” I continued. James stated he thought the title was fine, and noted that “A memoir written by a Black man in America is inevitably about race”. I had never looked at things that way. That pearl of wisdom helped me decide right then that Book-Brokers is who I wanted to publish with; that James gets it. James told me something else that day. I had lamented that with the publication of White Man’s Disease that I would feel a void in my life from no longer writing. James chuckled; he told me that completing writing was not the end. He was right. With marketing, events, pursuing opportunities to share my story and perhaps inspire others dealing with trauma, and yes, entering writing competitions in search of that validation, the journey continues.
And hey, I might even win. I am humbled.