Two Books About Youth Claim Our Social Justice Book Prizes

Covers of For Beautiful Black Boys who Believe in a Better World and Abandoned: America’s Lost Youth and the Crisis of Disconnection against a decorative background

Many of our programs at Goddard Riverside are focused on maximizing opportunities for young people. So it’s appropriate that both of our book prizes this year went to works addressing youth and the challenges they face.

Abandoned: America’s Lost Youth and the Crisis of Disconnection won the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice, while For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World claimed our first-ever Goddard Riverside CBC Youth Book Prize for Social Justice.

Abandoned, written by Anne S. Kim and published by The New Press, tells the story of young Americans who are neither in school nor working—more than 10 percent of the nation’s youth. As Kim writes, they are “disconnected from the mainstream of opportunity and disengaged from education and employment.” Some emerge from foster care with no meaningful support system. Others grow up in communities besieged by poverty and mass incarceration, or are entangled with the justice system themselves. 

“I wrote this book before the pandemic and even before then, millions of young people were out of school and out of work,” said Kim in her acceptance speech at our Annual Gala on October 29. “They had been abandoned by the systems around them but they still weren’t without hope. My book is about how to reconnect young Americans so we don’t lose all that potential. And it’s a need that I think has become even more urgent today.”

The Russo prize is named for Stephan Russo, who served as executive director of Goddard Riverside from 1998 to 2017. 

For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World was written by Michael W. Waters with illustrator Keisha Morris and published by Flyaway Books. It tells the story of Jeremiah, a young man with a lot of questions about the violent deaths of Black people he’s seeing in the news. His father doesn’t have easy answers, but he’s ready to talk, listen, and take action within their community. The book includes a discussion and activity guide written by the Muhammad Ali Center for parents and teachers to use with children.   

Michael Waters shared his acceptance speech with his son Jeremiah, who inspired the book.

“This book documents my family’s experiences over the course of 5 yars, and in those 5 years we’ve had good times and bad times,” said Jeremiah. “But as you can see, from the bad times we’ve grown closer together as a family. I’m grateful that the book has been able to reach so many people. When people read this book I would like it to be a stepping stone for conversations about race in the future.”

We’re grateful to the judges for both prizes. The Russo Prize panel is chaired by Doug Bauer, Executive Director of the Clark Foundation and includes 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 international coach, storyteller and cultural facilitator Ana Polanco. The judges for the Goddard Riverside CBC Youth Book Prize for Social Justice are Beth Puffer, a longtime bookseller at Eeyore’s Books for Children and Bank Street Bookstore, and Nicholas Rodriguez, a poet, indie coffee shop manager, CBC intern and aspiring public school teacher.

We’re also thankful for the many volunteers who helped us read the initial submissions. These prizes are truly a community effort!

Ten books were shortlisted for the prizes in September. See the shortlists here