Noted Writers Are Literary Honorees

Mayor Hands Out Inaugural Prizes

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris announced last Thursday, Apr. 26, the winners of New York City’s inaugural literary awards.

The NYC Literary Honors aim to highlight the important role of authors and scholars who have demonstrated a lifetime of achievement and for whom New York has been a central inspiration. The Literary Honors celebrates the role that great words and great works play in the city’s cultural life as well as the role the publishing industry plays in the City’s economy.

Bloomberg and actress Stockard Channing presented the 2012 Literary Honors, in a ceremony at Gracie Mansion, to Walter Dean Myers for children’s literature, Paul Auster for fiction, Robert Caro for non-fiction, Roz Chast for humor, Marie Ponsot for poetry and Robert Silvers for literary life.

“New York City has always been home to some of the world’s greatest authors, and it has served as the inspiration for countless literary works for decades,” said Bloomberg last Thursday. “Tonight’s awards give our city the opportunity to officially recognize some of the New Yorkers that have told our stories, chronicled our experiences, shared our love for our city, and enriched the lives of millions of readers around the world.”

“From Holly Golightly to Spiderman, a wealth of iconic characters have lived in New York City-and were created by authors who also hail from across the five boroughs,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin. “These awards highlight the city’s extraordinary literary landscape, an essential part of the creative community that contributes so much to our identify, economy, and quality of life.”

“New York City’s incomparable literary community inspires people throughout the world,” said Linda E. Johnson, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library. “The Literary Honors are a wonderful way to pay tribute to those who enrich our culture and stir our imaginations.”

“New York City’s vibrant literary life has traditionally been one of the reasons people flock here to live and work,” said Thomas W. Galante, President and CEO of the Queens Borough Public Library. “I offer tonight’s honorees congratulations- and a free Queens Library card.”

“I want to congratulate Angelica Modabber, a senior at the NYC iSchool, for winning the first annual Mayor’s Literary Award,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. “This prestigious honor recognizes Ms. Modadder’s extraordinary talent as a versatile and committed writer, and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.”

The nominating committee included Levin, Walcott and the heads of the city’s library systems. The ceremony will feature a reading by each award winner.

The honorees

Robert Caro, non-fiction-For his biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, Caro has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for biography, twice won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Nonfiction Book of the Year, and has also won virtually every other major literary honor, including the National Book Award, the Gold Medal in Biography from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Francis Parkman Prize, awarded by the Society of American Historians to the book that best “exemplifies the union of the historian and the artist.”

In 2010, he received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama. Caro’s first book, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, everywhere acclaimed as a modern classic, was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the hundred greatest nonfiction books of the 20th century. It is, according to David Halberstam, “Surely the greatest book ever written about a city.” And The New York Times Book Review said: “In the future, the scholar who writes the history of American cities in the 20th century will doubtless begin with this extraordinary effort.”

Walter Dean Myers, children’s literature-Myers is the bestselling author of MONSTER, the winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award, and the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

Myers has received every single major award in the field of children’s literature. He is the author of two Newbery Honor books and five Coretta Scott King Awardees. He is the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults, a three-time National Book Award Finalist, as well as the first-ever recipient of the Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

One of the preeminent writers for young people, he has also conducted workshops with thousands of children across the country. Myers was raised by foster parents in Harlem.

Marie Ponsot, poetry-Ponsot’s recent books include The Bird Catcher, winner of the National Book Critics Circle award; Springing, New and Selected Poems; and Easy. A professor emerita of Queens College, CUNY, she now teaches at the New School University and the YMHA Poetry Center.

Her awards include the Poetry Society of America’s Frost medal for lifetime achievement. She is an elected Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. With colleague Rosemary Deen, they wrote Beat Not the Poor Desk. This revolutionary text for effective writing teaching won the Shaughnessy Medal for the Modern Language Association.

Ponsot went to public schools until she went to St. Joseph’s College and then to Columbia for an MA. She still enjoys teaching. And, of course, she keeps her devotion to poetry, which has enhanced her life and continues to write.

Paul Auster, fiction-Auster is the bestselling, award-winning author of 16 novels, including Sunset Park, Invisible, Man in the Dark, The Brooklyn Follies, The Book of Illusions, and The New York Trilogy. His work has been translated into more than forty-one languages.

Auster has written the screenplays for Smoke (for which he won the Independent Spirit Award for best screenplay and the Silver Bear from the Berlin Film Festival), Blue in the Face, and Lulu on the Bridge (an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival), which he also directed; these three screenplays are collected in Three Films. He also wrote and directed The Inner Life of Martin Frost, which premiered at the opening of New York’s New Directors/New Films Festival in March 2007. He lives in Brooklyn.

Roz Chast, humor-Chast was born in Brooklyn. She began contributing to The New Yorker in 1978. Since then, she has contributed over 1,000 cartoons and several covers to the magazine.

In addition to The New Yorker, her cartoons have been published in many other magazines, including Scientific American and The Harvard Business Review. She has also illustrated several children’s books.

Robert Silvers, literary life-Silvers is an American editor who has served as editor of The New York Review of Books since 1963. Robert was co-editor of the Review with Barbara Epstein for over 40 years until her death in June 2006 and has been the sole editor of the magazine since then. He also serves on the editorial committee of La Rivista dei Libri, the Italian language edition of the Review.

Silvers has also edited or coedited several essay anthologies and is in charge of the Review’s book publishing arm, New York Review Books.

A student from a New York City Public High School, Angelica Modabber, a senior at the NYC iSchool in Manhattan, was also honored for literary achievement. In addition, the mayor inducted the inaugural class of historic NYC Literary Legends.

The 2012 NYC Literary Honors awards were underwritten through a donation from Barnes & Noble Booksellers.