The New York City Big Book Award allows all publishers, authors and presses to compete directly in hopes to celebrate the great ideas from those all across the globe. Judged on presentation, editorial quality, and audience appeal, we would like to congratulate our own three Koehler Books authors on their first place wins in their respective categories:
Truth is in the House by Michael Coffino: Race Relations
Through the Waters and the Wild by Greg Fields: Literary Fiction
Talent by B. Lynn Goodwin: Young Adult Fiction
Truth is in the House
As a young boy in the late 1950s, Jimmy O’Farrell emigrates with his family from Ireland to Manhattan to bask in the dawn of a new life. Thousands of miles away, the family of Jaylen Jackson seeks to build a life amid Jim Crow culture in Mississippi. As teenagers, both boys struggle to come of age in a racially divisive world, suffering horrific tragedies that shape their characters and life missions. Jimmy seeks to define what it means to stand for someone when the chips are down, while Jaylen embarks on a journey to gain respect beyond the color of his skin.
Fleeing the past, both families land in neighboring Bronx communities in the 1960s, where Jimmy and Jaylen’s lives first intersect, on the basketball courts and then in the Vietnam jungle. Repeatedly tested as men of different races, their friendship faces its toughest challenge outside a Bronx bar-with fatal consequences. Truth Is in the House is an epic and provocative tale that plumbs historical and modern racial themes and explores redemption, forgiveness, and the power of connecting through the human spirit.
Michael Coffino has authored or co-authored nine books (memoir and sports) since 2015, after he downshifted from almost four decades as a trial attorney and twenty-five years as a high school basketball coach, two dynamic careers he pursued in parallel. He also was a legal writing coach while practicing law. He still dabbles in the law and has a private investigation business as well, but mostly devotes himself to writing. Michael grew up in the Bronx, in its Mott Haven and Highbridge neighborhoods. He served in the US Army from 1968 to 1970 and earned a BS in education from the City University of New York and a JD from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. Michael plays guitar, holds a black belt in karate, is a workout junkie, plays pickle ball, and hikes regularly in the hills and mountains of California and Colorado. Truth Is in the House is his debut work of fiction.
Through the Waters and the Wild
“I was hungry, seeing myself starving for want of something I could not define. I sought it constantly, sought it at every turn, searched every face I met for hints of it, looked everywhere I could conceive. I lost time trying to slake this unquenchable thirst, trying to satisfy an endlessly burning hunger. But in the end I knew precisely what I had been after all along. It is the folly of the young, part of their particular curse, to be so unaware, to be blind as well as hungry. To be in exile from themselves and not know they are away.”
Haunted by lost loves and limping through a lifeless career, Conor Finnegan’s discontent mirrors the restlessness of his grandfather Liam, caught as a young man in the crossfire of the Irish Civil War. Drawing from Liam’s wisdom and courage, Conor seeks to reinvent his character and reclaim passions made numb by neglect and loss.
Through the Waters and the Wild addresses the timeless questions, “Where shall I go now? What shall I do?”
Greg Fields has established a reputation as an articulate voice of the human condition. He has won recognition for his written work in presenting the plight of marginalized young people through his tenure at the Global Fund for Children, and is the co-author with Maya Ajmera of Invisible Children: Reimagining International Development from the Grassroots, published by Palgrave Macmillan in July 2016. He has had articles published in the Harvard International Review, as well as numerous periodicals, including The Washington Post and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
He has presented at and participated in numerous symposia, including Stanford University’s Global Philanthropy Forum, The Conrad Hilton Humanitarian Award seminar, the Synergos Institute’s University for a Night at the United Nations, the International AIDS Conference and the European Foundation Centre’s general assembly. He has also been an invited participant at the Salzburg Seminar in Austria. Since 2009 he has been President and Senior Advisor of Philanthropy Directions International, a philanthropic consulting firm in Northern Virginia. His fluid yet precise style has caught the eye of other writers, including Pat Conroy, who offered a jacket quote for Arc of the Comet shortly before his passing in March 2016, and Fergal Keane, award-winning journalist for the BBC.
Sandee Mason is convinced her life will change if she can just win applause for her talents—whatever they may be. She can’t wait to accomplish something after living in the shadow of her big brother, Bri, who disappeared in Afghanistan months earlier, leaving Sandee craving the same attention the whole town is giving him even as she wrestles with feelings of loss. When her high school drama department puts on the play Oklahoma!, she knows that now is her chance to step out and be noticed. What will she learn about herself as she reaches out to the world?
B. Lynn Goodwin owns WriterAdvice.com. She’s written You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers, and Talent. Talent was short-listed for a Literary Lightbox Award and won a bronze medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and was a finalist for a Sarton Women’s Book Award. She has been married for five years to her Craigslist sweetheart.
To access the complete list of 2021 winners, click here.