2015 Literary News Review

by Emily Ramser

US Poet Laureate Philip Levine, 2011-12, via LOC Photo: Geoffrey Berliner
US Poet Laureate Philip Levine, 2011-12, via LOC Photo: Geoffrey Berliner

The literary community saw many ups and downs in 2015. It lost many writers including former Poet Laureate Philip Levine, true crime writer Anne Rule, and famous fantasy author Terry Prachett.

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Belarusian journalist and writer Svetlana Alexievich. The Pulitzer Prize in Fiction was awarded to Anthony Doeer for his novel All the Light We Cannot See and The Pulitzer Prize in Poetry was awarded to Gregory Pardio for his poetry collection Digest. Many other literary awards were also given out this year including the PEN Literary Awards, the Man Booker Prize, and the National Book Awards.

The literary world also hit the big screen with many novels being transformed into movies. Andy Weir’s The Martian’s film adaptation was released on November 27 under the same name. The second half of Suzanne Collin’s MockingJay also found its way into theaters in November. Earlier this year, John Green’s Paper Towns and Veronica Roth’s Insurgent also premiered in theaters.

This year gave way to the introduction of new poets laureate, as Ohio introduced its first ever Poet Laureate Amit Mahmudar. The country also saw the introduction of the first Latino US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrara.

The literary world also saw attacks on free speech and writing. On January 7, the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo was attacked by terrorists for its comics leaving 12 dead. People all over the world responded by holding vigils and creating political cartoons of their own.

Saudi Arabian artist and poet Asharf Fayadh was sentenced to death on November 17 by a Saudi court for charges of apostasy based on his poems. In response, many prominent US authors such as Neil Gaiman, John Green, and Sandra Cisneros created and signed a petition calling for President Obama to press Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to pardon Fayadh and another imprisoned author named Raif Badawi.

Editors and writers were also brought into a debate this year on ethics when a male author, Michael Derrick Hudson, used an Asian female pseudonym, Yi-Fen Chou to publish a poem of his. The poem ended up being published in Best American Poetry causing many issues within the writing community.

Not all the news to come out of the literary community in 2015 was negative, however. City Lights Publishers, a publisher known for specifically trying to publish marginalized voices, celebrated its 60 anniversary this year.

Harry Potter fans were also either pleased or upset when a play titled The Cursed Child was announced. According to Pottermore, the play is set to tell the story of Harry’s children, specifically his youngest—Albus Severus Potter. The play also made the news when it was announced that a woman of color had been cast to play Hermione. When fans expressed concern over Hermione not being white, J.K. Rowling tweeted, “Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione.”

This year also saw the release of Go Set a Watchman, the sequel to Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. The story follows 26 year-old Jean Louise Finch, also called Scout, as she returns home from New York City.

Finally, this year, according to Nielsen BookScan, the sales of printed books rose by about 2%. Comparatively, e-book sales are slipping, having declined by 11% in 2015.

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