Book Prize Recipient, 2019

Eliza Griswold, author of Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America, is the 2019 recipient of the Ridenhour Book Prize.

In a work rich with narrative suspense, Griswold tells the story of the energy boom’s impact on a small, impoverished town and one woman’s transformation from a struggling single parent to an unlikely activist. When the oil and gas industry first comes to Amity, Pennsylvania, lifelong resident Stacey Haney, working hard to support her children and make ends meet, decides to strike a deal with a Texas-based energy company looking to make a profit off her land. When mysterious sicknesses begin to afflict her children, and domestic animals and pets start to die, she becomes an outspoken critic as she launches her own investigation into corporate wrongdoing. At the center of this propulsive story are two strong women – one a mother, one a lawyer – working to solve a mystery of what is sickening Haney’s family and neighbors. What results is a fight for justice, with Haney taking on both the fossil fuel industry and the state, in a bid to put an end to practices ruining her community’s health and land.

The committee praised Amity and Prosperity as “a deeply sympathetic portrait of a community in conflict with the natural gas industry. For seven years Eliza Griswold followed a family enticed by an energy company to allow fracking on their small farm in western Pennsylvania. Her immersive reporting deftly illuminates their struggle for justice at the margins of poverty against larger economic and environmental forces at the edge of Appalachia.”

In response, Griswold said, “It is a tremendous honor to be awarded the Ridenhour Prize. It’s even more affirming to the people in Amity who have lived this book and spent a decade feeling invisible. To recognize and affirm their story with this prize is deeply rewarding.”

Griswold is a contributing writer at the New Yorker and the author of The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam, which won the 2011 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize. Her translations of Afghan women’s folk poems, I Am the Beggar of the World, was awarded the 2015 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and her original poetry won the 2010 Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in Rome. She has held fellowships from the New America Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, Harvard University and the Harvard Divinity School. She is currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.