The BPL Literary Prize is one of the rare major literary prizes given by a public library system, with a committee of librarians, library staff, and community members picking the nominees and winners each year.
The 24 authors on the 2021 longlist include notable authors like Zadie Smith and Talib Kweli, while seven works are from debut talent. This year’s selections vary in length and form, ranging from short reflective essays and memoirs to biographies and novels.
“The Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize celebrates contemporary writers and their greatest allies: librarians,” said BPL president and CEO Linda Johnson. “This year, BPL librarians and library staff read across genres and a dazzling array of subjects from climate change to the cosmos. The longlist encourages readers to delve into our past and imagine a more equitable, more sustainable future.”
Many of this year’s selections are particularly focused on Brooklyn, including novels about gentrification, romance, and family within the borough.
“This year's nominees are a love letter to New York in all its plurality and vibrance,” said Michelle Montalbano, librarian and co-coordinator of the prize committee. “The stories represented in our longlist books take us from 19th century Brooklyn to the disordered cosmos, to apartments in Bushwick and brownstones in Bed-Stuy,”
Fiction/poetry and nonfiction award winners will be announced in November. Winning authors will receive a $5,000 prize.
Despite the pandemic, BPL has continued to host in-person and virtual events throughout the year.
This past July, the library held its annual Older American Celebration Fair, offering Brooklyn seniors an opportunity to gain new skills and learn about the library’s services. BPL also hosts bi-weekly virtual events with the Center for Brooklyn History.
Earlier this spring, BPL installed new outdoor reading rooms with free wi-fi at various branches throughout the borough, giving Brooklynites an opportunity to enjoy library services in a more spacious, socially distanced environment.