Apparently, People Feel Strongly About Kola Boof

By Neal 

So I ran this item yesterday about how Kola Boof received a Swedish literary award last month while giving a reading at Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. That prompted a bunch of unhinged racist e-mails yesterday afternoon, all from the same anonymous remailer. This morning, I get another, saner bit of correspondence from somebody much nicer, politely explaining that I had been hoodwinked. I hadn’t, but that took an inordinate amount of time to establish.

So I start Googling around, and it gets interesting. OK, so apparently Boof’s story about this award has changed; her email to GalleyCat said she’d won the “World Author’s Woman to Woman Pen,” but back in July, she was calling it the “Gudrun Schyman Pen in Feminist Prose.” Maybe these things change as translations from the Swedish get more reliable; I dunno, but I’m really not going to sweat that detail (although, honestly, if I had won an international literary award, I think I’d remember what it was called). Then my pseudonymous correspondent tells me that there never was any reading at the Schomburg Center, and that was a little trickier—it turns out, as best I can determine, that she did speak in the Langston Hughes Auditorium, but that it wasn’t an official NYPL event, so it doesn’t show up on their website, but people who were there took pictures and wrote about it. (Even the racist from yesterday afternoon had said he’d gone!) By then, I’ve determined that the online forums where all these arguments about the veracity of anything Boof says about herself play out are, frankly, a world of crazy (as nearly all online discussion boards tend to be), and I’m ready to bail. To recap: Kola Boof got an award for something she wrote, and she had a literary event in Harlem, no matter what anybody tells you. Whatever you think about that, or about her, you can keep to yourself, thanks.

(This post was revised for clarity Thursday afternoon after Boof and her publisher complained that the original version made it look—to people who weren’t reading closely enough—like I’d said the event hadn’t taken place and that she hadn’t gotten an award. I regret any confusion that might have arisen in that regard.)