Reporter Anand Giridharadas Wins 2015 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism

MAY 27, 2015 –Journalist Anand Giridharadas has won The New York Public Library’s 2015 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism for his groundbreaking work, “The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas.”

Giridharadas, a Brooklyn resident and a columnist at The New York Times, won the prestigious award on May 26 at a ceremony at the Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. His book – published by W.W. Norton and Company – uses extensive quotes and exhaustive reporting to chronicle the stories of two men: a white supremacist who went on a killing spree in Texas after 9/11, and a Muslim immigrant who narrowly escaped death at his hands. The victim – Raisuddin (Rais) Bhuiyan – eventually tries to save his attacker from Death Row.

“The True American” – which was named one of the best nonfiction books of the year by Publishers Weekly, Amazon, and The Boston Globe, and was a 2014 New York Times Book Review Notable Book – was one of five finalists selected by a seven-member Library Review Committee, which received and read over 70 nominations from publishers. The winner was chosen by a separate Bernstein Selection Committee, chaired by Jim Hoge, an accomplished journalist and former editor of Foreign Affairs, who now chairs the International Center for Journalists. The finalists were:

  • “No Good Men Among the Living: America, The Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes” by Anand Gopal (Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, New York)
  • “The Sixth Extinction:  An Unnatural History” by Elizabeth Kolbert (Henry Holt and Company, New York)
  • “The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited” by Louisa Lim (Oxford University Press, New York)
  • “Age of Ambition” by Evan Osnos (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York)

Giridharadas – whose book is being optioned as a movie by Annapurna Pictures with Kathryn Bigelow set to direct and produce – said at the ceremony that it was “surprising and amazing” to win, joking that he would have “taken an internship” with any of the other finalists if they had offered.

He tied together the themes of the five finalist books to make a point about the importance of journalism right now, saying, “You look at these five books and two, it seems to me, are about corrosion of the current superpower [the United States]. Mine a little bit about the corrosion within, the other Anand’s about its lack of ability to effect change in the world. Two books about how the rising superpower [China] is just as confused, not at all clear that it is able to take the mantle. And then, for good measure, a fifth book saying that none of the other four matter if we destroy the planet. And it just seems to me that in addition to journalism being important for democracy, it is particularly important for a moment that is so vacuous in leadership.”

All of the finalists attended the ceremony, which featured acclaimed journalist Bill Moyers as keynote speaker.

“No matter the technology employed, it is the deeply moved and engaged individual who can transcend the normal province of journalistic convention to see and speak truths others have missed in all that is hidden in plain sight,” Moyers said at the ceremony (his full speech on the current state of journalism can be found here). “Congratulations to the recipients of the Helen Bernstein Award. Thank you for keeping the flame burning.”

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


Angela Montefinise |

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