Peter Lovenheim, adjunct professor of English at Rochester Institute of Technology, has won the inaugural Zócalo Public Square Book Prize, presented by the California-based national nonprofit organization.
Lovenheim was honored for the narrative nonfiction book In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time, which documents his quest to create a sense of community on his street by sleeping over at his neighbors’ houses.
“This book began as a personal journey to better understand my neighbors and myself,” Lovenheim says. “It is extremely gratifying that this effort has ultimately touched so many people and I am very honored to receive this recognition from Zócalo Public Square, an organization that focuses on enhancing community understanding and unity.”
The book prize, which also includes a $5,000 cash award, is given to the book that most effectively—and most creatively, strikingly or enjoyably—enhances our understanding of community. In the Neighborhood was selected from an initial field of 80 nominees by an expert panel of judges that included author Greg Critser and filmmaker Michael Tolkin.
In its prize announcement, the committee noted, “In the Neighborhood paints haunting portraits of the different lives unfolding on a city street and ties them into questions about the fraying of America’s social fabric over the past several decades.”
The book, published by Penguin Books, has been optioned by Julia Roberts’ production company, Red Om Films. It was also selected by Barnes and Noble as a 2010 Discover Great New Writers Summer Selection and was a finalist for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s 2011 Books for a Better World Award.
Lovenheim’s articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, Moment Magazine and many other publications. He is the author of six additional books including Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf: The Story of One Man, Two Cows, and the Feeding of a Nation, which was published in 2003 by Random House and featured in the New York Times Book Review.
Zócalo Public Square was founded in 2003 and is dedicated to promoting greater public awareness of the social, cultural and political issues facing American communities. Through its numerous outreach initiatives, open public lectures and community conferences, Zócalo takes on ideas that enhance our understanding of the forces that strengthen or undermine human connectedness and social cohesion.