Move over “homes and churches” — Brooklyn is the borough of books!
A panel of local literary giants will name the two most Brooklyn-esque texts at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Brooklyn Classic benefit party on Oct. 23. But before the ceremony for the literati, finalists for the new Brooklyn Eagles literary prize in non-fiction and fiction categories will read from their works at the Library’s Central Branch on Oct. 20 and 22, respectively.
If you struggle to envision what constitutes a truly “Brooklyn” piece of writing, you are not alone — the judges will have to hash that out themselves before selecting winners, an organizer said.
“We deliberately left it vague,” said Williamsburger Ashley Mihlebach, a prize committee co-chairwoman and sales assistant at Penguin Books. “There are a whole lot of stereotypes and buzzwords that have surrounded Brooklyn, so we decided not to define it and instead to let residents of Brooklyn and those who are judging decide.”
The criteria may be ill-defined, but the competition’s Brooklyn ties are as strong the cables on our namesake bridge, she said.
“The prize touches Brooklyn in every aspect — local bookstores and libraries nominated the long list, the first round of judging was by Brooklyn librarians, and we gathered a group of Brooklyn-relevant, recognized authors who will be the final evaluators and judges,” she said.
Mihlebach and co-chairman Charles Duhigg asked tome-slingers and lenders to take a hands-on role in the judging process to empower the borough’s rank-and-file book peddlers, Mihlebach said.
“My favorite aspect of literature is discovering new authors, and most of the time that happens through a bookseller or librarian so Charles [Duhigg] and I wanted to take their input,” she said. “These people who are champions of books and we wanted to make their voice louder.”
The 11-judge panel includes Red Hook novelist Joshua Cohen, New Yorker staffer and Prospect Heights resident Larissa MacFarquhar, and Brooklyn Public Library-boosting poet Junot Diaz. They will choose a winner from a shortlist of fiction by James Hannaham, Atticus Lish, and Anya Ulinich; and from non-fiction from D. W. Gibson, Claire Prentice, and Kent Russell.
The Brooklyn Eagles — a group of young professionals who raise money and support for the library system — created the prize, Mihlebach said. She hopes the new literary merit — which the Eagles aim to mete out annually — will support budding wordsmiths and the library system at large.
“If we’re able to support emerging authors while being able to do that then we’ve succeeded,” Mihlebach said.
The competition’s name references a bygone borough newspaper — not today’s synonymous-but-unrelated fish wrapper of the same name, according to a library spokesman.
“The name was actually inspired by the zinc eagle that presides over the entrance of Central Library,” said Adam Leddy. “Perched above the foyer, the statue is the only survivor of four that once adorned the headquarters of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle.”
Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize finalists’ readings at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Dweck Cultural Center [10 Grand Army Plaza at Eastern Parkway in Prospect Heights, www.bklyn
Brooklyn Classic benefit and awards ceremony at Park Slope Library (431 Sixth Ave. at Ninth Street in Park Slope, www.bklyn