Gotham Book Prize Created to Help NYC’s Writers in the Midst of Pandemic Recovery

As New York City and its arts community enters a challenging recovery from COVID-19, recognizing what makes the city so special and unique is more important than ever. In an effort to help New York’s writers and celebrate the city’s unique vitality and diversity, Bradley Tusk and Howard Wolfson have announced a new award, the Gotham Book Prize, to encourage and honor writing about the city.

The Gotham Book Prize will be awarded annually to the best book published that calendar year (both works of fiction and nonfiction are eligible) that either is about New York City or takes place in New York City. A jury made up of leading New York authors will nominate a short list of eligible books and then vote on one winner. The first prize will be awarded in the Spring of 2021 and the winner will receive $50,000.

New York — its character, energy and diversity — has produced many great books and authors over the years,” said Howard Wolfson and Bradley Tusk in a statement. “As New York begins a difficult recovery from COVID-19 we want to do our part to honor our city’s writers and support their work. Helping the city we love by supporting great books will hopefully help authors and encourage even more writers to focus on the greatest city in the world.” 

The challenges presented by COVID-19 are all too real. But even in its toughest days, New York City has always attracted the attention and imagination of creative, smart, ambitious people from all over the world. That attraction stems from the city’s unique diversity and energy, portrayed so well and so often in books and films, in movies and songs. That mystique is essential to keeping the city’s spirit alive even as it suffers physically and economically in the years ahead. 

A top jury of leading New Yorkers and leading authors has been named to select the award’s winner, including:

  • Writer, entrepreneur and sociologist Dr. 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

“There is only one New York,” said NYU Professor and Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Mitchell Moss. “It is about time we recognized the best books about our city — just as we celebrate the great buildings and neighborhoods of New York.”

“The Gotham Book Prize seeks to acknowledge a writer who captures the essence of New York City in all of her complexity…the politics, the prose, the problems, and the perseverance,” said Fordham professor and political scientist Dr. Christina Greer. “I am so honored to help select a book that will highlight just a small slice of this beautiful apple.”

New York is a physical place, but for many who have resided there, passed through, or somehow been touched by its storied history, it’s also a state of mind,” said writer, entrepreneur and sociologist Dr. Anna Akbari. “This prize recognizes the living legacy and evolving mythology of a place that is equal parts geography and identity.”

“The Gotham Book Prize is a wonderful way to celebrate our beloved City’s presence on the page,” said novelist Melissa Rivero. “New York has been a source of inspiration to so many writers, and the hope is that it continues to inspire great books even as we go through this challenging time in the City and our country’s history.”

“One reason New York never sleeps is that so many great writers are up all night—finding the words to tell powerful stories of our great city,” said writer and poet Tom Healy. “If ever there were a time to celebrate that energy and imagination it’s now as New York lives through the brave, but painful chapter of this pandemic.”

“New Yorkers–from the immigrant grocer in Queens to the Manhattan millionaire–are tough, pragmatic, and fresh: in spirit and voice,” said professor and novelist Patricia Park. “As a native New Yorker, I write–and read–about stories that celebrate our city, our struggles, our resilience.”

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 2020 prize must be submitted by November 1, 2020. The winner will be named in March 2021. For more information, please visit gothambookprize.org. 

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