Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism

stack of five books

Press Release · Blog Post · More About the 2022 Award Process

For the past 35 years, The New York Public Library has selected five finalist books for the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism. The Bernstein Award recognizes works written by working journalists that raise awareness about current events or issues of global or national significance.

This year's winner:

On April 18, 2022, The New York Public Library announced that Andrea Elliott is the winner of the 2022 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism for her powerful book Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival and Hope in an American City published by Penguin Random House.

 

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Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival and Hope in an American City

Andrea Elliott–Penguin Random House

Alternate Formats: e-book, e-audiobook

In Invisible Child, Pulitzer Prize winner Andrea Elliott follows eight dramatic years in the life of Dasani, a girl whose imagination is as soaring as the skyscrapers near her Brooklyn shelter. In this sweeping narrative, Elliott weaves the story of Dasani’s childhood with the history of her ancestors, tracing their passage from slavery to the Great Migration north. As Dasani comes of age, New York City’s homeless crisis has exploded, deepening the chasm between rich and poor. She must guide her siblings through a world riddled by hunger, violence, racism, drug addiction, and the threat of foster care. Out on the street, Dasani becomes a fierce fighter “to protect those who I love.” When she finally escapes city life to enroll in a boarding school, she faces an impossible question: What if leaving poverty means abandoning your family, and yourself?

 


 

This year's finalists were: 

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The End of Bias: A Beginning: The Science and Practice of Overcoming Unconscious Bias

Jessica Nordell–Metropolitan Books

Alternate Formats: e-book, e-audiobook

The End of Bias is a transformative, groundbreaking exploration into how we can eradicate unintentional bias and discrimination, the great challenge of our age. 

With nuance, compassion, and ten years of immersion in the topic, Jessica Nordell weaves gripping stories with scientific research to reveal how minds, hearts, and behaviors change. She scrutinizes diversity training, deployed across the land as a corrective but with inconsistent results. She explores what works and why: the diagnostic checklist used by doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital that eliminated disparate treatment of men and women; the preschool in Sweden where teachers found ingenious ways to uproot gender stereotyping; the police unit in Oregon where the practice of mindfulness and specialized training has coincided with a startling drop in the use of force.

 

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The Inevitable: Dispatches on the Right to Die 

Katie Engelhart–St. Martin’s Press

Alternate Format: e-book 

More states and countries are passing right-to-die laws that allow the sick and suffering to end their lives at pre-planned moments with the help of physicians. But even where these laws exist, they leave many people behind. The Inevitable moves beyond the margins of the law to the people who are meticulously planning their final hours—far from medical offices, legislative chambers, hospital ethics committees, and polite conversation. It also shines a light on the people who help them: loved ones and, sometimes, clandestine groups on the internet that together form the “euthanasia underground.”

 

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Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America’s Cheap Goods

Amelia Pang–Algonquin Books

Alternate Formats: e-booke-audiobook

In 2012, when Julie Keith opened a package of Halloween decorations she had purchased at a big box store near her home in Oregon, something shocking fell out: an SOS letter, handwritten in broken English by the prisoner who had made and packaged the items. The letter’s author, Sun Yi, was a Chinese engineer turned political prisoner, an ordinary citizen forced into grueling labor for campaigning for the freedom to join a forbidden meditation movement. He was imprisoned alongside petty criminals, civil rights activists, and tens of thousands of others the Chinese government had decided to “reeducate,” carving foam gravestones and stitching clothing for more than fifteen hours a day.

In this page-turning and urgent book, investigative journalist Amelia Pang pulls back the curtain on the human cost of the cheap consumer products Americans take for granted. 

 

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Planet Palm: How Palm Oil Ended Up in Everything and Endangered the World 

Jocelyn C. Zuckerman–The New Press

Over the past few decades, palm oil has seeped into every corner of our lives. Worldwide, palm oil production has nearly doubled in just the last decade: oil-palm plantations now cover an area nearly the size of New Zealand, and some form of the commodity lurks in half the products on U.S. grocery shelves. But the palm oil revolution has been built on stolen land and slave labor; it’s swept away cultures and so devastated the landscapes of Southeast Asia that iconic animals now teeter on the brink of extinction. Fires lit to clear the way for plantations to spew carbon emissions to rival those of industrialized nations.   

 


 

All book descriptions were provided by the publishers.

Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in accessible formats.

 


 

More About the Award

See past winners here.

All books nominated were published in 2021 and the finalists were selected by a ten-person Library Review Committee, which read over 100 books submitted by publishers. When five nominees are chosen, a six-person committee of journalists determines the winner. That individual will receive a $15,000 cash prize. Previous winners of the award include Masha Gessen, Anand Giridharadas, George Packer, and Nina Bernstein.  

The Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism was established in 1987 through a gift from Joseph Frank Bernstein, in honor of journalist Helen Bernstein Fealy.

 


 

Library Stories from Past Winners

Past winners of the Bernstein Award discuss journalism and democracy.