I got a pretty big thrill the other day when I found out that my debut novel, Olga Dies Dreaming, has been longlisted for the Brooklyn Public Library Book Prize. The prize is meant to recognize books that celebrate the spirit of Brooklyn, and for this reason, it was one of the best affirmations that a local girl who learned to read in her public library could receive.
A few months ago, I made a list of Brooklyn films that really help you get to know the place, which got me thinking about some great Brooklyn books that, with the Labor Day weekend upon us, you might want to pick up and dive into. These are books that celebrate, to me, the spirit of Brooklyn—not Brooklyn (™) the hyper-developed locale where the hip reside, but Brooklyn, the working-class outer borough where people live. Some are written by natives, others not. And I’m sure I’ve missed some—so please hit me up and tell me which Brooklyn books I’ve left off the list.
(And speaking of Labor Day, if you are in Washington, D.C. this holiday weekend, I’ll be at the Library of Congress’s National Book Festival on a panel called “Is Anything Funnier Than Politics?” and will host a book signing after.)
With no further ado, a Brooklyn End-of-Summer Reading List.
Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta, by James Hannaham: In this brand-new fiction release (hitting bookstores today!) Carlotta Mercedes is back home after 20 years in prison—where, on an all-male cell block, she began her transition to life as a woman—to a much changed Brooklyn. The novel is both hilarious and heartbreaking, with language that reaches for your throat. I don’t want to give too much away here, but with an unforgettable voice, Hannaham takes on gentrification, the prison and parole system, and more.