Have you heard about the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame? It’s a little well-kept secret that is starting to get out. The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame’s mission is to promote and celebrate Chicago’s rich and proud literature tradition by honoring the authors whose words have best captured the essence of our city. In addition, the organization also collects and exhibits literary artifacts; documents the accomplishments of Chicago’s best writers; captures the voices and words of Chicago’s best writers; and promotes new literature through recognition and prizes. It serves as a portal to Chicago’s literary events, publishers and people and stands to keep critical Chicago authors in the forefront of the minds of a public that reads less and less.
Probably the most notable event that the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame organizes is the annual induction ceremony, which began in 2010 as an occasion for Chicago to crown past, present and future literary achievements. Some of the past inductees have been literary powerhouses such as Ida B. Wells, Harriet Monroe, Carl Sandburg, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, Lorraine Hansberry and Studs Terkel.
This year, on November 30th at 7 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center, six writers will be inducted as part of the CLHOF’s 2012 class: Jane Addams (1860-1935); Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941); James T. Farrell (1904-1979); Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961); Langston Hughes (1902-1967); and Carolyn Rodgers (1940-2010). The ceremonies will once again be emceed by Rick Kogan, Chicago journalist and currently the host of WBEZ’s “Afternoon Shift.”
Accepting posthumously for their writer relatives are: J. Linn Allen (great-great nephew of Addams); David Spear (grandson of Anderson); Sean Hemingway (grandson of Ernest); Marjol Rush-Collet (cousin of Hughes); Kevin Farrell (son of James T.); and Nina Rodgers Gordon (sister of Carolyn Rodgers).
Presenting the honors will be Charles Fanning, Gioia Diliberto, Liesl Olson, Garrard McClendon, Angela Jackson and Scott Turow. The event is free and open to the public.
It is surprising, given the long history of Chicago literary giants, that there has been no organization honoring Chicago’s literary tradition prior to the The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, which is headed up by Donald Evans, an excellent author in his own right. The organization serves the important purpose of highlighting just how many impactful Chicago authors there have been over time, not just in their writing, but often in their pursuits for justice, bettering social welfare and championing the rights of women and African Americans. As a Chicago native, I am proud of this literary history and will certainly be attending on Friday to witness some of our Chicago literary greats, albeit posthumously, be welcomed to their full glory. Come join me!
In the interim, enjoy this video from the 2010 Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. I interviewed crime novelist Sara Paretsky on Gwendolyn Brooks, Haki Madhubuti on Richard Wright, Rick Kogan and photographer Art Shay on his years with Nelson Algren.