Patrick Phillips’ ‘Blood at the Root’ Is a Finalist for Two Awards
Drew professor’s first nonfiction book is also recognized as a Notable Book.
February 2017 – The first nonfiction book from Drew University Associate Professor Patrick Phillips is being recognized as one of the best books of 2016.
Blood at the Root is a finalist for a PEN America Galbraith Award and a Barnes & Noble Discover Award and has been named a Notable Book by the American Library Association.
In each case, Phillips’ work is in select company: there are only five finalists for the Galbraith Award in Nonfiction, three for the Discover Award for Nonfictionand just 12 Notable Books in nonfiction.
Blood at the Root tells the story of how African Americans were rooted from Forsyth County, Georgia in 1912 after three black men were accused of raping and killing a white woman. Based on original and secondary research, the book questions whether the men were wrongly accused (and hanged) and explores why Forsyth remained unwelcome to blacks for eight decades.
The book also represents a personal story, as Phillips, who teaches English, grew up in the all-white county and traveled back there to conduct research and interview descendants of the accused and the victim.
The professor’s latest recognition follows a series of positive reviews in The New York Times, Publishers Weekly and the New York Journal of Books. In addition, Phillips and his story were featured in a PBS NewsHour piece that aired on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The professor, who joined Drew in 2007, said all the exposure is “great if it brings new readers to the story. We live in a very crowded moment in terms of media and information streams. So, these things certainly help bring attention to the story. That’s all really the best part.”
On campus, Phillips will discuss the book next month at the sixth annual Merrill Maguire Skaggs Lecture. The March 2 event will include an introduction by Thomas Kean, the former governor of New Jersey and past president of Drew.
The Galbraith Award and Discover Award nominations come a year after a book of Phillips poetry became a finalist for a National Book Award. Elegy for a Broken Machine was among five finalists for the poetry prize, including Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude from Ross Gay, a former professor at Drew’s Caspersen School of Graduate Studies. Robin Coste Lewis’ Voyage of the Sable Venus won the prize.