We attended the Carl Sandburg Literary Awards dinner as guests of Chicago Public Library Board member, Leslie Hindman. Our table was filled with luminaries such as Martha Lavey (Steppenwolf Artistic Director), Jan Melk (noted Chicago philanthropist), Temple Smith, Helen Melchior (Joffrey honcho) and Dia and Edward Weil.
The real stars of the evening though were, of course, Carl Sandburg Literary Award winning author Toni Morrison and her biggest fan, Oprah, who opened the conversation by saying that , "she (Morrison) is my favorite author of all time living or dead."
The event was originally scheduled for the Harold Washington Library where it was held last year but, due to an overwhelming response, it was moved to the Forum on the University of Illinois campus. 800 guests attended and the event raised $1.1 million dollars for our public libraries. Cheryl Mayberry McKissack and Jim Tyree were co-chairs with the first award of the evening, the 21st Century Award, being presented to author Eula Biss. Jayne Thompson, President of the Board of Directors for the CPL, then introduced Mayor Daley who dedicated his 54th library last month as Mayor of Chicago. He said, "The spirit of Chicago is not of big shoulders, but of big hearts." Gosh, I'm gonna miss this guy....
Then Oprah and Ms. Morrison sat down for a conversation. Toni said she had 12 rejections before "Bluest Eye" was published. Oprah asked what kept her going and she said, "Arrogance. I wrote the book so I could read it. I saw a gap and I filled it because of this very reason. Reading is the beginning of being in the world. It's how we know things." She began writing at age 39 and has been writing for 40 years.
Thank goodness Toni Morrison exists in our world. Thanks for a great interview too Oprah! Your fans were out in force. One lady even got Oprah to sign a program from her from the Legends Ball in 2006!
As Mayor Daley said in closing, "When families ask me what can I do with my kids, I say go to the library!" Amen......
Tags: Carl Sandburg Literary Awards, Cheryl Mayberry McKissack, Chicago Public Libraries, Dia Weil, Edward Weil, Eula Bliss, Helen Melchior, Jan Melk, Jayne Thompson, Jim Tyree, Leslie Hindman, literacy, Martha Lavey, Mayor Daley, Oprah, Oprah Winfrey, Temple Smith, Toni Morrison