March 11 Tribute to Leon Forrest

The Society of Midland Authors and the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame will present a tribute to the acclaimed Chicago novelist Leon Forrest on Tuesday, March 11, at the Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan Ave., 22nd floor, Chicago.

Donald G. Evans will lead a panel discussion featuring Ronne Hartfield and Kathleen E. Bethel talking about Forrest’s life and literature. UPDATE: Sterling Plumpp will also be participating. The discussion begins at 7 p.m. A social hour with free appetizers and a cash bar begins at 6 p.m. No reservations are required for this free public event.


Leon Forrest (1937-1997) is one of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame’s newest inductees. He also served as president of the Society of Midland Authors. His stream-of-consciousness writing concerned the legacy of slavery and earned him a place on Chicago magazine’s “Most Important Chicagoans of the 20th Century.”

His novels are set in a mythical Forrest County that closely resembles Chicago. His third novel, Two Wings to Veil My Face (1984), won the Society of Midland Authors Award for adult fiction, the DuSable Museum Certificate of Merit and Achievement in Fiction, the Carl Sandburg Award and the Friends of Literature Prize. His fourth book, Divine Days (1992), won the Chicago Sun-Times Book of the Year Award for local fiction.

Forrest grew up on the South Side and went to school at Wendell Phillips, Hyde Park Academy and Wilson Junior College. He wrote and edited for several South Side community newspapers, and was a professor of English and African-American studies at Northwestern University for 24 years.

The panel discussion will include:


Sterling Plumpp is the author of 12 books, including Ornate With Smoke and Velvet BeBop Kente Cloth. A retired professor of English and African-American Studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Plumpp’s poetry has earned him numerous awards, including the Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award, the Carl Sandburg Literary Award for Poetry, a Broadside Press Publisher’s Award, and three Illinois Arts Council awards. Plumpp migrated from Mississippi to Chicago in 1962 and earned both his BA and MA from Roosevelt University. He began writing his poetry, which is often based on blues and jazz rhythms, while working in a post office here. Plumpp is also the editor of Somehow We Survive: An Anthology of South African Writing.


Ronne Hartfield, a poet, essayist, international museum consultant and author of the 2004 memoir, Another Way Home: The Tangled Roots of Race in One Chicago Family.


Kathleen E. Bethel, African-American studies librarian at Northwestern University Library and an advisory board member for the Project on the History of Black Writing.


Donald G. Evans, founder and executive director of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, author of the novel “Good Money After Bad” and editor of the anthology Cubbie Blues: 100 Years of Waiting Till Next Year.