The New York Public Library has named five nonfiction books finalists for the 2020 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism. The Bernstein Award honors working journalists whose books bring clarity and public attention to important issues, events or policies.
Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration by Emily Bazelon
The American criminal justice system is supposed to be a contest between two equal adversaries, the prosecution and the defense, with judges ensuring a fair fight. That image of the law does not match the reality in the courtroom, however. Much of the time, it is prosecutors more than judges who control the outcome of a case, from choosing the charge to setting bail to determining the plea bargain. They often decide who goes free and who goes to prison, even who lives and who dies. In Charged, Emily Bazelon reveals how this kind of unchecked power is the underreported cause of enormous injustice–and the missing piece in the mass incarceration puzzle.
Charged follows the story of two young people caught up in the criminal justice system: Kevin, a twenty-year-old in Brooklyn who picked up his friend’s gun as the cops burst in and was charged with a serious violent felony, and Noura, a teenage girl in Memphis indicted for the murder of her mother. Bazelon tracks both cases–from arrest and charging to trial and sentencing–and, with her trademark blend of deeply reported narrative, legal analysis, and investigative journalism, illustrates just how criminal prosecutions can go wrong and, more important, why they don’t have to.
Bazelon also details the second chances they prosecutors can extend, if they choose, to Kevin and Noura and so many others. She follows a wave of reform-minded D.A.s who have been elected in some of our biggest cities, as well as in rural areas in every region of the country, put in office to do nothing less than reinvent how their job is done. If they succeed, they can point the country toward a different and profoundly better future.
A Good Provider is One Who Leaves: One Family and Migration in the 21st Century by Jason DeParle
When Jason DeParle moved into the Manila slums with Tita Comodas and her family three decades ago, he never imagined his reporting on them would span three generations and turn into the defining chronicle of a new age–the age of global migration. In a monumental book that gives new meaning to “immersion journalism,” DeParle paints an intimate portrait of an unforgettable family as they endure years of sacrifice and separation, willing themselves out of shantytown poverty into a new global middle class. At the heart of the story is Tita’s daughter, Rosalie. Beating the odds, she struggles through nursing school and works her way across the Middle East until a Texas hospital fulfills her dreams with a job offer in the States.
Migration is changing the world–reordering politics, economics, and cultures across the globe. With nearly 45 million immigrants in the United States, few issues are as polarizing. But if the politics of immigration is broken, immigration itself–tens of millions of people gathered from every corner of the globe–remains an underappreciated American success. Expertly combining the personal and panoramic, DeParle presents a family saga and a global phenomenon. Restarting her life in Galveston, Rosalie brings her reluctant husband and three young children with whom she has rarely lived. They must learn to become a family, even as they learn a new country. Ordinary and extraordinary at once, their journey is a twenty-first-century classic, rendered in gripping detail.
She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey
On October 5, 2017, the New York Times published an article by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey—and then the world changed. For months Kantor and Twohey had been having confidential discussions with top actresses, former Weinstein employees and other sources, learning of disturbing long-buried allegations, some of which had been covered up by onerous legal settlements. The journalists meticulously picked their way through a web of decades-old secret payouts and nondisclosure agreements, pressed some of the most famous women in the world—and some unknown ones—to risk going on the record, and faced down Weinstein, his team of high-priced defenders, and even his private investigators.
But nothing could have prepared them for what followed the publication of their Weinstein story. Within days, a veritable Pandora’s Box of sexual harassment and abuse was opened, and women who had suffered in silence for generations began coming forward, trusting that the world would understand their stories. Over the next twelve months, hundreds of men from every walk of life and industry would be outed for mistreating their colleagues. But did too much change—or not enough? Those questions plunged the two journalists into a new phase of reporting and some of their most startling findings yet.
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No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder
We call it domestic violence. We call it private violence. Sometimes we call it intimate terrorism. But whatever we call it, we generally do not believe it has anything at all to do with us, despite the World Health Organization deeming it a “global epidemic.” In America, domestic violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime, and yet it remains locked in silence, even as its tendrils reach unseen into so many of our most pressing national issues, from our economy to our education system, from mass shootings to mass incarceration to #MeToo. We still have not taken the true measure of this problem.
In No Visible Bruises, journalist Rachel Louise Snyder gives context for what we don’t know we’re seeing. She frames this urgent and immersive account of the scale of domestic violence in our country around key stories that explode the common myths–that if things were bad enough, victims would just leave; that a violent person cannot become nonviolent; that shelter is an adequate response; and most insidiously that violence inside the home is a private matter, sealed from the public sphere and disconnected from other forms of violence. Through the stories of victims, perpetrators, law enforcement, and reform movements from across the country, Snyder explores the real roots of private violence, its far-reaching consequences for society, and what it will take to truly address it.
The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier by Ian Urbina
There are few remaining frontiers on our planet. But perhaps the wildest, and least understood, are the world’s oceans: too big to police, and under no clear international authority, these immense regions of treacherous water play host to rampant criminality and exploitation.
Traffickers and smugglers, pirates and mercenaries, wreck thieves and repo men, vigilante conservationists and elusive poachers, seabound abortion providers, clandestine oil-dumpers, shackled slaves and cast-adrift stowaways — drawing on five years of perilous and intrepid reporting, often hundreds of miles from shore, Ian Urbina introduces us to the inhabitants of this hidden world. Through their stories of astonishing courage and brutality, survival and tragedy, he uncovers a globe-spanning network of crime and exploitation that emanates from the fishing, oil and shipping industries, and on which the world’s economies rely.
Both a gripping adventure story and a stunning exposé, this unique work of reportage brings fully into view for the first time the disturbing reality of a floating world that connects us all, a place where anyone can do anything because no one is watching.