Photo: Jonathan Blanc

Elliott’s book, Invisible Child, follows eight dramatic years in the life of a girl raised in a New York City shelter

The New York Public Library announced today that Andrea Elliott is the winner of its 2022 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism for her powerful book Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival and Hope in an American City.

Invisible Child follows eight dramatic years in the life of Dasani, a girl whose imagination is as soaring as the skyscrapers near her Brooklyn shelter. In this sweeping narrative, Elliott weaves the story of Dasani’s childhood with the history of her ancestors, tracing their passage from slavery to the Great Migration north. As Dasani comes of age, New York City’s homeless crisis has exploded, deepening the chasm between rich and poor. She must guide her siblings through a world riddled by hunger, violence, racism, drug addiction, and the threat of foster care. Out on the street, Dasani becomes a fierce fighter “to protect those who I love.” When she finally escapes city life to enroll in a boarding school, she faces an impossible question: What if leaving poverty means abandoning your family, and yourself?

Andrea Elliott is an investigative reporter for The New York Times. She came to the Times from The Miami Herald where she covered crime, immigration, and Latin American politics. Her reporting has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, a George Polk Award, a Scripps Howard Award, and prizes from the Overseas Press Club and the American Society of News Editors.

“This award is a tribute to all journalists working in the public interest and I am tremendously honored to receive it. Thank you for recognizing Invisible Child among such a stellar group of finalists, and for shining a light on the importance of deep and hard-won reporting. It is my hope that this book will open readers’ eyes to how poverty and structural racism play out on the ground, and that long after people have turned the last page, Dasani’s story will stay with them,” said Elliott. 

The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Award recognizes works written by working journalists that raise awareness about current events or issues of global or national significance. Winners of the award receive a $15,000 prize. Previous winners include journalists Jill Leovy, Anand Giridharadas, and Patti Waldmeir.  

Five finalists were selected earlier this year by a ten-person Library Review Committee, which read over 100 books submitted by publishers. The four other finalists were:

  • The End of Bias: A Beginning: The Science and Practice of Overcoming Unconscious Bias by Jessica Nordell (Metropolitan Books);
  • The Inevitable: Dispatches on the Right to Die by Katie Engelhart (St. Martin’s Press);
  • Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America’s Cheap Goods by Amelia Pang (Algonquin Books);
  • Planet Palm: How Palm Oil Ended Up in Everything and Endangered the World by Jocelyn C. Zuckerman (The New Press). 

The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism was established in 1987 through a gift from Joseph Frank Bernstein in honor of journalist Helen Bernstein Fealy. The award honors journalists and their important role in drawing public attention to current issues, events, or policies.

About The New York Public Library
For over 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library receives approximately 16 million visits through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at www.nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at www.nypl.org/support.

Invisible Child, Andrea Elliott. Photo: Nina Subin