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English professor wins Council of Wisconsin Writers nonfiction prize

April 3, 2014
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B.J. Hollars (photo by Brian Hollars)

EAU CLAIRE — B.J. Hollars, assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, has been named the recipient of the 2014 Wisconsin Writers Award for nonfiction by the Council for Wisconsin Writers.

Hollars will receive the Norbert Blei/August Derleth Nonfiction Book Award for "Opening the Doors: The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa," published in spring 2013. The award includes $500 and a weeklong writing residency at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point. Out-of-state judges selected Hollars for the award.

"I'm simply grateful," Hollars said of the CWW award. "Researching and writing about civil rights has been one of my life's joys, and I'm so proud to have the opportunity to share these stories with others."

"Opening the Doors" is Hollars' second book on the issues of race and civil rights in the South. It provides an all-encompassing account of the University of Alabama's 1956 and 1963 desegregation attempts, as well as the never-before-reported-story of Tuscaloosa, Alabama's own civil rights movement.

Hollars received a master of fine arts degree from the University of Alabama, and his time spent there was the source of inspiration to write "Opening the Doors."

Hollars also is the author of "Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence, and the Last Lynching in America" — the 2012 recipient of the Society of Midland Author's Award — and a short story collection, "Sightings: Stories," published in March 2013.

Hollars' hybrid text, "Dispatches from the Drownings: Reporting the Fiction of Nonfiction," will be published in the fall. The work was developed out of Hollars' interest in west-central Wisconsin residents' complex relationship with their natural surroundings — in particular, area rivers. For "Dispatches from the Drownings," Hollars wrote dispatches about drownings that occurred in or near the region around the turn of the 20th century.

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