Controversial Book on Brooklyn Gentrification Wins New Brooklyn Literary Prize

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    Brooklyn is known as the “borough of churches,” but it is gaining a reputation as a borough of books. Steeped in literary history, it is home to some of the greatest writers and characters in literature.

    We all know the classics. But what are the best books that embody Brooklyn’s spirit today? On Friday, the Brooklyn Eagles, volunteer fundraisers for the Brooklyn Public Library, gave their answer.

    The Brooklyn Eagles created the inaugural Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize this year to recognize the best nonfiction and fiction books that “portrayed the borough in prose or addressed themes relevant to its life and culture.”

    The winners were announced at the Eagles’ fund-raising gala Friday, held at the Park Slope branch of the library.

    Few issues are more relevant to the Brooklyn of today than the forces of gentrification and displacement. So it’s not surprising that the nonfiction committee selected DW Gibson’s oral history of Brooklyn gentrification, The Edge Becomes the Center. Gibson’s book deep dives into gentrifying Brooklyn with first person accounts (including that of a racist landlord/developer) of what it’s like to live and work there.

    Gibson’s book “tells the story of gentrification from the perspective of the people who experience it most closely, and the result is a moving work of art that will resonate in Brooklyn and beyond,” said nonfiction committee chair and Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Charles Duhigg. (You might remember Duhigg’s own strange discussion of diversity and gentrification from the Cities of Tomorrow conference).

    In the fiction category, the committee selected Atticus Lish’s Preparation for the Next Life. The much-lauded novel is about a Chinese immigrant who falls in love with a war veteran in Queens. It has already racked up a number of other awards, including the 2015 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the New York City Book Award for Fiction.

    Other books shortlisted for the prize include Claire Prentice’s The Lost Tribe of Coney IslandKent Russell’s essay collection I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised A Timid SonJames Hannaham’s novel Delicious Foods, and Lena Finkle’s graphic novel Magic Barrel.

    Have you read either of the winning books? What’s your favorite quintessentially Brooklyn book?

    [Photo: Barbara Eldredge]

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