Gotham Book Prize Announces 2023 Winners: Stories from the Tenants Downstairs by Sidik Fofana and The Sewing Girl's Tale by John Wood Sweet

NEW YORK, April 24, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The Gotham Book Prize, an annual award first created in the early months of the pandemic to encourage writing about New York City, announced two winners of the 2023 prize today. A jury made up of leading New Yorkers and authors has selected Stories from the Tenants Downstairs by Sidik Fofana and The Sewing Girl’s Tale by John Wood Sweet as the third-annual winners of the prize. The authors of the winning books will split the increased $70,000 prize, and they will be honored at an upcoming celebration at P&T Knitwear, a new independent bookstore, podcast studio, and event space in Manhattan.

The Gotham Book Prize was created in mid-2020 by Bradley Tusk — the founder of P&T Knitwear — and Howard Wolfson to recognize the culture that has made New York City special for generations and to uplift the creative community during the challenging early months of the pandemic.

“We are thrilled to increase the prize money this year and honor two outstanding authors — one whose sharp historical inquiry brings to life New York City’s past, and another whose vivid character development captures the voice of New York City today,” said Bradley Tusk and Howard Wolfson, co-creators of the Gotham Book Prize. “We started the Gotham Book Prize during the pandemic to encourage writers to share unique stories about New York, and both of these books have accomplished exactly this. We expect both to be cemented in the canon of great New York City books.”

“I have both Deacon King Kong and Invisible Child on my bookshelf and it is absolutely surreal to be recognized in a similar way. This city is so beautifully intricate, and for the Gotham Prize to include Stories from the Tenants Downstairs in that mosaic is an honor words really cannot do justice to. On top of that — I get to share this good euphoria with a writer who I absolutely adore,” said Sidik Fofana, author of Stories from the Tenants Downstairs.

“One of the great rewards of researching and writing The Sewing Girl’s Tale was getting to know the city of New York in new ways. Around every corner, on each new page, was a mystery or a revelation. Ultimately, this book became an opportunity to tell the story of our nation’s founding era not through the eyes of the so-called Founding Fathers but through the eyes of a young woman of modest circumstances: a seventeen year old sewing girl who refused to be silenced, who insisted that she, too, mattered. Hers is a powerful New York story of courage—and its costs,” said John Wood Sweet, author of The Sewing Girl’s Tale.

Sidik Fofana’s Stories from the Tenants Downstairs focuses on the interconnected lives within one apartment building in Harlem — from the friendships to the rivalries — as the clock of gentrification ticks louder than ever. Three of his stories appeared in The Sewanee Review. Fofana earned an MFA from NYU and he lives with his wife and son in New York City where he is a public school teacher in Brooklyn.

John Wood Sweet’s The Sewing Girl’s Tale is a historical drama of the first published rape trial in American history and its long, shattering aftermaths. He is a professor of history at the UNC Chapel Hill and former director of UNC’s Program in Sexuality Studies. He is a graduate of Amherst College, earned his Ph.D. in History at Princeton University.

The Gotham Book Prize is awarded annually to the best book published that calendar year that takes place in New York City. Deacon King Kong by James McBride was selected as the first annual Gotham Book Prize winner in April 2021. Invisible Child by Andrea Elliott was selected as the second winner in April 2022.

“You can’t find a better argument for why the Gotham Book Prize exists than in Fofana’s opening lines: ‘Everybody got a story, everybody got a tale.’ And what unforgettable, resplendent tales he’s woven together. The voice, the struggle, the music and hustle of our great city—they’re all here, living hard in one Harlem high rise,” said Tom Healy, poet and member of the Gotham Book Prize jury.

John Wood Sweet is that rare academic whose scholarship is as brilliant as his storytelling. By piecing together the forgotten history of one woman’s harrowing experience, The Sewing Girl’s Tale shines a light on themes that are as relevant today as they were in revolutionary America. It also positions New York at the center of our nation’s history, a metropolis that is still as dynamic, complicated, and character-driven today as it was then,” said Dr. Anna Akbari, writer, entrepreneur, sociologist, and member of the Gotham Book Prize jury.

Howard Wolfson works for Bloomberg Philanthropies, serving as its Education program lead and also runs former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Super PAC. Bradley Tusk is a venture capitalist, political strategist, philanthropist, and writer. In May 2022, Tusk opened an independent bookstore and NYC’s only free podcast studio, P&T Knitwear, on the Lower East Side, named after a 1950s garment shop operated by his grandfather on Allen Street after surviving the Holocaust and immigrating from a displaced persons camp in Germany.

Contact: [email protected]

Book images, author headshots, graphics: available here

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