NEW YORK, April 6, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The Gotham Book Prize, an annual award created to encourage and honor writing about New York City in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, announced today that James McBride has been selected as the winner of the first annual 2021 Gotham Book Prize for Deacon King Kong. A jury made up of leading New Yorkers nominated a shortlist of ten books last summer and determined McBride's novel best captured the hardship and compassion of living in New York City. Honorable mentions include The City We Became by N.K. Jemison, Luster A Novel by Raven Leilani, and You Again by Debra Jo Immergut.
"We created the Gotham Book Prize at the beginning of the pandemic to honor New York City and support the novelists who best captured the spirit of our city," said Howard Wolfson and Bradley Tusk in a statement. "It was an honor to come together with such a talented group of jurors as we discussed and debated what it means to live in New York City, especially during such a transitional time. James McBride's novel so perfectly embodies the essence of our city right now, reminding us that in hardship there is hope and love for each other and our communities. We hope this prize continues to inspire novelists to write about what makes our city so special so it continues to be a place where people all over the world dream of living or visiting one day."
In the midst of New York City's arts community entering a challenging recovery from Covid-19, Bradley Tusk and Howard Wolfson created the Gotham Book Prize to help New York's writers and continue to tell stories that celebrate and highlight the city's unique vitality and diversity. The prize is awarded annually to the best book set in or about NYC each year and winners will receive $50,000.
Set in late 1960s Brooklyn, Deacon King Kong tells the story of the different lives impacted by a shooting in their neighborhood and how their stories intersect in more ways than one. McBride's ability to tell a single story through the lens of different characters in a community is an important reminder that our stories as New Yorkers who share this space are all connected in some way or another.
"It's a thrill to be honored in your own hometown. It's like having your very own parade," said James McBride, author of Deacon King Kong and winner of the Gotham Book Prize. "This award landed in my lap nearly the same day as my late mother's 100th birthday (April 1). She was the subject of my first book, "The Color of Water." She loved New York. Despite the hardship of raising 12 kids here, she always felt that there was no better place in the world. She would be prouder of this than anything I've done, just because it bears the stamp of our ragged, proud metropolis. If it were wrapped with yesterday's fish, in yesterday's Daily News, she'd still love it.
"The fact is, there are many writers who are equally if not more deserving of The Gotham Book Prize than I," continued McBride. "I hope my moment in the sun is seen by my fellow writers as a kind of victory for all of us, since there are plenty of buildings and monuments in this town honoring developers, and so few elements honoring what we do. That's why The Gotham Book Prize is important, because there's a novel in every page of New York life. The great Pete Hamill, one of the greatest writers this town ever produced, understood that well. We lost Pete last year. But the level of decency, humanity, kindness, talent, and courage that his writing life typified, is something every writer should aspire to. So this year, I hope he is remembered."
A jury of New York leaders and authors came together to select the award's winner, including:
- Writer, entrepreneur and sociologist Anna Akbari
- Documentarian and filmmaker Ric Burns
- Novelist and memoirist Stephanie Danler
- Fordham professor and political scientist Dr. Christina Greer
- Writer, poet and Director of the Curator Culture series at The Bass Museum Tom Healy
- NYU Professor and Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Mitchell Moss
- American University professor and novelist Patricia Park
- Novelist Melissa Rivero
- Poet Safiya Sinclair
- Queens Public Library CEO and former NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott
"The inaugural Gotham Book Prize marks an exciting new entry in literary awards: one that combines recognition in artistic excellence with a celebration of a place and a moment in time. The jurors read these impressive entries not only through the lens of literary criticism, but as surrogates for and a reflection of a place so many of us hold dear — New York City — at a pivotal moment in the city's transformation." — Anna Akbari, PhD, sociologist and writer
"After the year we've had, we could all use a dose of Made-in-NYC love. Finding and celebrating the books that have that love is what the Gotham Book Prize is all about. No novel from 2020 brings New York City to life quite like Deacon King Kong. It's heartbreaking. It's funny. It's full of music, love, petty crime and honest struggle. It's a big, gorgeous story of unforgettable characters trying to make it in this tough, crazy, beautiful city."— Tom Healy, Writer, Poet and Director of the Curator Culture series at The Bass Museum
"The Gotham Book Prize comes at a time when New Yorkers need to celebrate what makes this city so unique. McBrides' latest novel Deacon King Kong reminds us of the neighborhoods, sounds, textures, and essence of being and living in one of the most diverse and vibrant cities ever. I am so honored to be able to contribute to the ongoing conversation about what makes NYC a place so distinct yet so universal." — Dr. Christina Greer, Fordham professor and political scientist
"After the year the city has been through, the timing of this prize could not be more gratifying. Deacon King Kong, beyond being a masterfully crafted story, reminded me that community is the bedrock of New York City. The ethic that infuses this novel is the same one we saw on display in 2020: New Yorkers take care of each other."— Stephanie Danler, Novelist and memoirist
"Deacon King Kong reveals the power of community with a Brooklyn housing complex. This is about the real New York that tourists do not see and television programs neglect. We have a novel that brings New York to life with characters who care about each other, despite the challenges they face everyday." — Mitchell Moss, NYU Professor and Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation
"The Gotham Book Prize represents an important commitment to uplifting and encouraging literary work that captures the essence of NYC - it's people, grit and beauty, with all its complexities." — Melissa Rivero, Novelist
"New York stories matter—always have and always will. Gotham Book Prize honors the books that celebrate our city, our struggles, our resilience." — Patricia Park, Professor at American University and novelist
"We were really excited to have so many diverse books focusing on NYC, and thank Howard Wolfson and Bradley Tusk for creating the Gotham Book Prize. Deacon King Kong surfaced as a great story about the heart and soul of the city." — Dennis Walcott, Queens Public Library CEO and former NYC Schools Chancellor
Wolfson works for Bloomberg Philanthropies, serving as its Education program lead and also runs Mike Bloomberg's SuperPAC. Tusk is a venture capitalist, political strategist, writer and philanthropist. The two became friends while working on Bloomberg's 2009 re-election campaign.
Nominations for the 2022 Gotham Book Prize will open in the Fall of 2021. For more information, please visit gothambookprize.org.
Media Contact: Rachel Livingston, [email protected]
SOURCE Tusk Holdings