Brooklyn Public Library and the Brooklyn Eagles are proud to announce the winners of the 2017 BPL Literary Prize:

In The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on economic and housing policy, debunks the myth that American cities became segregated through individual prejudices, income inequality, or the actions of private institutions. Rothstein argues the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal government bodies led to officially segregated public housing and to the rapid decline of previously integrated neighborhoods. His powerful history sheds light on an untold story in America’s turbulent racial history that begins in the 1920s, and contextualizes its enduring legacy by pointing to outbursts of violence in Baltimore, Ferguson, and Minneapolis, among other cities.

"In these troubled times in which frightening white supremacist activities have been exposed, there is also a growing willingness by many to re-examine, with unprecedented frankness, the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow that determine the inequality we still experience today," said Rothstein. "I am personally gratified by the Brooklyn Public Library’s recognition of The Color of Law, but especially grateful for how such recognition contributes to this national re-examination."

"We, as a society, are right now deep in what The Color of Law addresses, and Dr. Rothstein’s research gives people a context regarding the decisions that have been and continue to be made about policies that affect everyone in America," said Claudia Rankine. "It’s about democracy—how it goes wrong, how it should be enacted—and the fact that this book is being championed by the library, one of our most democratic institutions, will allow more people to read it and be exposed to its arguments."

Tommy Pico is a Brooklyn-based queer writer originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation. IRL is an extended poem, composed like a long text message, that draws from the epic tradition of A.R. Ammons, ancient Kumeyaay Bird Songs, and Beyoncé’s visual albums. It follows a reservation-born, queer 20-something from Brooklyn looking to understand and define his identity amidst the challenges of emerging adulthood, sexual discovery, social media and the digital age, and a keen awareness of how he is shaped by the legacy of the U.S.’ fraught relationship with Native American communities.

"IRL is a dive into a character's indigenous religion, or rather its violent theft, and what he does to keep himself tethered to life in its absence," said Pico. "Seeing it awarded a literature prize by a library is pretty cosmic. When I was young and bullied, libraries gave me books and books gave me a reason to want to keep going."

"Tommy Pico's IRL delights and surprises, defies categorization, and challenges our narrative and linguistic expectations," said Téa Obreht. "It is, on every level, a remarkable achievement."

Each year Brooklyn Public Library, in collaboration with the Brooklyn Eagles, recognizes outstanding works of nonfiction and fiction with a prize given in the fall. With this year’s prize, the BPL will highlight books which—by subverting literary forms, pushing against established ways of thinking, or otherwise introducing new or challenging ideas—speak to the Library’s ideals. This will connect the prize to the Library’s mission to create a welcoming environment in which all members of the borough’s diverse community—one of the most socially and culturally complex in the country—can come together to contemplate urgent social, political and artistic questions.

BPL librarians have always played a central role in determining the prize winners, and their voices will be amplified even more this year. The nominees and longlists were selected by a committee of librarians, and the shortlists were determined by two panels comprised of librarians from branches across the borough. Librarians also serve alongside prominent authors and cultural leaders to determine the two winners, who each receive $5,000.

The 2017 Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize shortlists include a novel, a book-length poem, a collection of short stories, and three works of nonfiction.

2017 Brooklyn Literary Prize Shortlist


Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (Doubleday)

Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics by Kim Phillips-Fein (Metropolitan Books)

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein (Liveright Publishing)

Fiction & Poetry

Exit West: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books)

What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky: Stories by Lesley Nneka Arimah (Riverhead Books)

IRL by Tommy Pico (Birds, LLC)

In addition to BPL librarians Nick Higgins and Amy Mikel, members of the shortlist jury include: poet, National Book Award finalist, and MacArthur Fellow Claudia Rankine; novelist, art critic, and international lecturer on psychoanalysis and neuroscience Siri Hustvedt; Emmy Award–winning news anchor and New York Times best-selling author Chris Hayes; Shakespeare scholar and award-winning Columbia University professor James Shapiro; philosopher Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research and moderator of "The Stone" at the New York Times; novelist Téa Obreht, 2011 National Book Award finalist and winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction; novelist Imbolo Mbue, winner of the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction; Anderson Tepper, editor at Vanity Fair and co-chair of the international committee of the Brooklyn Book Festival; and eminent queer theorist and Columbia University professor Jack Halberstam.

The winners will be celebrated at the Brooklyn Classic, the annual fundraising event of the Brooklyn Eagles, on November 3 at Park Slope Library.

The Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize is generously supported by the Peck Stacpoole Foundation.

The Literary Prize Eagles Committee

Charles Duhigg and Ashley Mihlebach, Co-Chairs

2018 Brooklyn Literary Prize Longlist


A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History by Jeanne Theoharis (Beacon Press)

Everything You Love Will Burn: Inside the Rebirth of White Nationalism in America by Vegas Tenold (Nation Books)

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay (HarperCollins)

Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown by Lauren Hilgers (Crown Publishing Group (NY))

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo (Seal Press)

You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson (Plume)

The bridge: How the Roeblings Connected Brooklyn to New York by Peter Tomasi and Sara DuVall (Abrams ComicArts)

The line becomes a river: dispatches from the border by Francisco Cantú (Penguin Random House)

The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison (Little, Brown and Co.)


Fiction & Poetry

Don't Call Us Dead: Poems by Danez Smith (Graywolf Press)

Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing (Haymarket)

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (Grove Atlantic)

Her Body and Other Parties  by Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf Press)

Sour Heart  by Jenny Zhang (Penguin Random House (Lenny imprint))

The Answers by Catherine Lacey (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)

The King is always above the people by Daniel Alarcon (Riverhead Books)

The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat (Henry Holt and Co.)

The Sarah book  by Scott McClanahan (Tyrant Books)

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons (Viking)


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