Shortlists Announced for Social Justice Book Prizes

Collage of the ten shortlisted entries for the Goddard Riverside Book Prizes 2020

Shortlists have been released for the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice and the new Goddard Riverside / CBC Youth Book Prize for Social Justice. The winners of both prizes will be announced on October 29 online at the Goddard Riverside Annual Gala.

The youth prize recognizes nonfiction books for children and teens related to urban life and issues that support values such as community, equality, opportunity, mutual understanding, respect, caring and justice – in accordance with Goddard Riverside’s mission.

Carl Lennertz, executive director the Children’s Book Council, said: “I want to thank Goddard for the work they do every single day, the publishers for the powerful and important books from this year that they sent in, and the two judges: Beth Puffer, longtime bookseller at Eeyore’s Books for Children and Bank Street Bookstore, and Nicholas Rodriguez, the CBC intern who worked on this project all summer. We’re delighted to bring these works some well-deserved attention and we’ve listed many of the books submitted on a Courageous Women in History reading list, now up at”

The shortlist is:

  • All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything, by Annette Bay Pimentel; illus. by Nabi H. Ali. The true story of a girl who left who wheelchair and climbed the US Capitol steps to fight for disability rights. (Sourcebooks Explore/Sourcebooks Kids)
  • For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in A Better World, by Michael W. Waters; illus. by Keisha Morris (Flyaway Books). An intimate look at one family’s response to racism and gun violence.
  • Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood, by Tony Hillery; illus. by Jessie Hartland (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books). A lush garden grows out of an abandoned lot and feeds a neighborhood.
  • Lizzie Demands a Seat!: Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights, by Beth Anderson; illus. by E. B. Lewis (Boyds Mill & Kane/Calkins Creek). A schoolteacher changes history by fighting back when she is unjustly denied entry to a New York City streetcar.

The Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice, now in its fourth year, celebrates the power of the written word to create change in the name of justice for all.

“These books not only offer factual insights into some of the most important social issues of our time—they give voice to people suffering from injustice so that we can truly understand the harm that is being done,” said Goddard Riverside Executive Director Roderick L. Jones. “At a time when our politics can seem senseless and brutal, these works light the way forward to a better society.”

The shortlisted titles are:

  • Abandoned: America’s Lost Youth and the Crisis of Disconnection, by Anne Kim [The New Press]—A journalist examines the hidden crisis of disconnected youth, telling the stories of young people navigating early adulthood alone in communities where poverty is endemic and opportunities almost nonexistent. 
  • Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. [Crown]—The Princeton professor and author explores racism and the ongoing battle for civil rights in today’s America through the lens of the great James Baldwin.
  • Big Dirty Money: The Shocking Injustice and Unseen Cost of White Collar Crime, by Jennifer Taub [Viking]—White-collar crime is neither rare nor victimless; Taub, a banking law expert, shows how ordinary Americans suffer when the rich and powerful commit financial crimes.  
  • Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America, by Conor Dougherty [Penguin Press]—A New York Times journalist chronicles America’s housing crisis from its West Coast epicenter, San Francisco, where fleets of private buses ferry software engineers past tarp-and-plywood shanties erected by people who have no homes.
  • Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People, by Ben Crump [Amistad]—The attorney for the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Breonna Taylor exposes how America is killing Black people and justifying it legally. 
  • The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having—or Being Denied—an Abortion, by Diana Greene Foster [Scribner]—A groundbreaking ten-year study led by the author, a reproductive health expert, examines the lasting consequences for women who are denied abortions and refutes the claim that the procedure harms women.

The list for the Stephan Russo Prize was chosen by a distinguished slate of judges chaired by Douglas Bauer, executive director of The Clark Foundation. The remaining judges are Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner; Marcia Cantarella, university administrator and author of I CAN Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide; and leadership coach and cultural facilitator Ana Polanco. The book prize is named after Stephan Russo, who served as executive director of Goddard Riverside from 1998 to 2017.


For more than 100 years, Goddard Riverside has been committed to investing in people and strengthening community by meeting New Yorkers’ most essential needs. Through 27 programs across 22 sites, Goddard Riverside provides comprehensive educational, cultural and recreational programs for New Yorker of all ages, including early childhood education, after school, employment support, college access, youth programs, homeless outreach, senior centers and legal assistance.

The Children’s Book Council (CBC) is the nonprofit trade association of children’s book publishers in North America, dedicated to supporting the industry and promoting children’s books and reading. The CBC also coordinates the national programs of Every Child a Reader, including Children’s Book Week, now in its 101st year; Get Caught Reading; and the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, currently Jason Reynolds.