"By Charles Anthony
"The city that produced Jack London and Gertrude Stein will honor
Oaklanders for their writing this weekend. Two hills authors will be
featured at the 11th annual PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles National
Literary Awards and the 5th Annual Literary Censorship Awards at Pro
Arts in downtown Oakland.
"William Mandel wins a censorship award for his book, 'Saying No To
Power.' The New York-born writer, who now lives near the Piedmont Avenue
neighborhood, said the autobiography chronicles his life as an activist
and whole-hearted supporter of free speech.
"'I wrote it as an autobiography because people are more interested in
lives of human beings than just history,' Mandel said.
"Mandel said his passion for people's rights began in the 1920s when he
started collecting money in the New York City subway for starving
children of miners on strike.
"And his attention often focuses on racial issues.
"Pretty much since childhood I've been concerned with the issue of how
this country deals with race,' Mandel said.
"At the awards ceremony this Sunday, Mandel will read a section from
'Saying No To Power' that deals with his efforts to help seven black men
sentenced to death. He noted the treatment of black males in the south
in the 1960s by police officers and government as one of the things that
lured him to become a civil rights activist.
"As a white man facing the realities of this country, I feel honored
that the man who nominated me (for his award) is an African-American,'
said Mandel. Author Al Young was the nominator.
"When asked why he won an award for censorship, Mandel said 'When you
devote your life to free speech, unfortunately you find yourself being
"Mandel received another censorship award in 1994 from Human Rights
Watch. He won for his receipt of a letter from a publisher explaining
why 50 years prior he was unable to publish a book of his: In the cold
war atmosphere, it was impossible for the press to create the book and
'not lose their shirts,' said Mandel.
"Mandel had worked as a Russian Expert for United Press International
and became well-versed in Soviet arrairs.
"'No one would touch me with a 10-foot pole throughout the entire
McCarthy era,' he added.
"He said he now spends much of his time with his wife and publicizing
"Trestle Glen resident Mary Monroe will be recognized for her second
novel, 'God Don't Like Ugly.'
"'It's been a long time coming,' Monroe said of her award. The award
will be a first for the Alliance, Ohio native, who moved to Oakland in
"The novel is about a sexually abused young African-American girl and a
best friend who will stop at nothing to end the abuse. Monro e says she
has had the desire to write since she was a young girl.
"'I was born to write,' she said.'Getting published is the hard part.'
"As an African-American writer, Monroe said the demand for black
literature is greater now than when she wrote her first book, 'The Upper
"'It's a huge market to learn about the black experience. Back in '85
that wasn't the case,' she said.
"She is working on the sequel to 'God Don't Like Ugly,' titled 'God
Still Don't Like Ugly,' which she hopes will be ready for release next
"The literary awards ceremony will be 6-8 p.m. Sunday, May 20 at Pro
Arts, 461 9th St., near Broadway." [$6-$8]
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