Mary E. Buser’s Lockdown on Rikers Claims Nonfiction Award
Fiction Committee Selects Idra Novey’s Ways to Disappear
Brooklyn, NY—Brooklyn Public Library has announced the winners of the second annual Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize. Poet and translator Idra Novey earned top honors in fiction for her debut novel, Ways to Disappear, a work that follows the disappearance of a Brazilian writer and the efforts of her American translator to find her, while licensed clinical social worker Mary E. Buser won the nonfiction award for Lockdown on Rikers: Shocking Stories of Abuse and Injustice at New York's Notorious Jail, a memoir of the five years she spent working in the facility’s mental health department. The authors accepted their awards last night at the Brooklyn Classic, the signature event of the Brooklyn Eagles, a community of young professionals and artists who volunteer and raise funds for the Library.
“The recipients of the 2016 Eagles Prize have made an extraordinary contribution to the literature of New York City,” said Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda E. Johnson. “We encourage our patrons to check out this year’s winning and nominated books from their local libraries.”
Created in 2015, the Eagles Prize is awarded each year to works of fiction and nonfiction by authors who have lived in Brooklyn, portrayed the borough in their work or addressed themes relevant to its life and culture. Nominations for the 2016 prize were submitted in the spring by borough bookstores and librarians, then evaluated throughout the summer by a committee of Brooklyn librarians who selected shortlists that included:
- [WINNER] Idra Novey, Ways to Disappear (Little, Brown): A Brazilian writer disappears and is sought by her children and her American translator in this debut. Nominated by Community Bookstore.
- Boris Fishman, Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo (Harper Collins): A novelist who has earned comparisons to Bellow and Roth tells the story of the Maya and Alex Rubin, Russian transplants living in New Jersey with an adopted American son. Nominated by Barnes & Noble, Court Street.
- Tanwi Nandini Islam, Bright Lines (Penguin): A debut novel set in Brooklyn and Bangladesh, following two young women as they navigate the transition from adolescence to young adulthood. Nominated by WORD.
- [WINNER] Mary E. Buser, Lockdown on Rikers: Shocking Stories of Abuse and Injustice at New York's Notorious Jail (St. Martin’s Press): A former mental health administrator at Rikers describes the everyday abuses she encountered while attempting to serve the needs of inmates there. Nominated by a BookMatch librarian.
- James McBride, Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul (Spiegel & Grau): A National Book Award-winning novelist goes in search of the “real” James Brown by interviewing those who knew him. Nominated by Barnes & Noble, Court Street.
- Tim Sultan, Sunny’s Nights: Lost and Found at a Bar on the Edge of the World (Random House): The story of an unusual bar in Red Hook and its eccentric owner, Sunny Balzano. Nominated by Pioneer Books and BookCourt.
The judges for the 2016 Eagles Prize included, in fiction, Yelena Akhtiorskaya (Panic in a Suitcase), Christopher Beha (What Happened to Sophie Wilder) and Gabe Hudson (Dear Mr. President), and, in non-fiction, Jennifer Gonnerman (Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett), Uzodinma Iweala (Beasts of No Nation), George Packer (The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America), Laura Secor (Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran) and Robert Sullivan (The Thoreau You Don't Know).
“By taking readers inside America’s best-known prison during an era when its most shocking abuses were largely unknown to the public, Mary E. Buser’s Lockdown on Rikers is both a work of literature and an appeal to the nation’s conscience in the tradition of Silent Spring and The Jungle—or even last year’s Eagles Prize winner, DW Gibson's The Edge Becomes the Center,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times editor and nonfiction committee chair Charles Duhigg.
“Idra Novey’s Ways to Disappear is an adventure story, a paean to translation and translators, a playful experiment with the novel as form, and so much more,” said Ashley Mihlebach, chair of the Eagles Prize fiction committee. “In the judgement of the fiction committee, it deserves a wide readership as one of the most exhilarating debut novels published in this or any other year.”
The Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize was supported by the Peck Stacpoole Foundation. Sponsors of the Brooklyn Classic included Colson Patisserie, Sixpoint Brewery, Heights Chateau, New York Distilling Company and Park Slope Parents.
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About the Brooklyn Eagles
The Brooklyn Eagles are a community of engaged young Brooklyn Public Library supporters whose mission is to connect with new patrons, promote BPL as a cultural center and build a vibrant community around the Library. The Eagles support BPL by fundraising, advocating and raising awareness for Library programs and resources. Since 2013, the Eagles have volunteered their time and engaged hundreds of young professionals through their service projects, social gatherings and the annual Brooklyn Classic fundraiser.