The newly created Gotham Book Prize will award one winner $50,000 for a 2020 published book of fiction or nonfiction that’s either about or set in New York City. The prize was created by Bradley Tusk, a venture capitalist, political strategist and writer, and Howard Wolfson, education program lead of Bloomberg Philanthropies, “in an effort to help New York’s writers and celebrate the city’s unique vitality and diversity.” The prize will be awarded annually, and nominations for 2020 are being accepted through November 1, with the prize being awarded in spring 2021.
In a statement, Tusk and Wolfson said, “New York — its character, energy and diversity — has produced many great books and authors over the years. 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.”
A jury of 10 New Yorkers and authors will select the 2020 winner. The jury includes Writer, entrepreneur and sociologist Dr. Anna Akbari, documentarian and filmmaker Ric Burns, Stephanie Danler, author of the novel Sweetbitter and memoir Stray, 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 Patricia Park, author of the novel Re Jane, Melissa Rivero, author of the novel The Affairs of the Falcóns, poet Safiya Sinclair, author of the poetry collection Cannibal and forthcoming memoir How to Say Babylon, and Queens Public Library CEO and former NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. The group will nominate a short list of eligible books before voting on a single winner.
In the statement, Rivero said, “The Gotham Book Prize is a wonderful way to celebrate our beloved City’s presence on the page. 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.”
Park highlighted the various experiences that writers in the Big Apple bring to the page, saying, “New Yorkers—from the immigrant grocer in Queens to the Manhattan millionaire—are tough, pragmatic, and fresh: in spirit and voice. As a native New Yorker, I write—and read—about stories that celebrate our city, our struggles, our resilience.”
The prize’s website lists an array of “books that would have won in the past,” including Jazz by Toni Morrison, New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson, Just Kids by Patti Smith, Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem, The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe, Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos, The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead, and American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis, among others.