One of Literary Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2022
A landmark work of intimate reporting on inequality, race, class, and violence, told through a murder and intersecting lives in an iconic American neighborhood.
One New Haven summer evening in 2006, a retired grandfather was shot point-blank by a young stranger. A hasty police investigation culminated in innocent sixteen-year-old Bobby being sentenced to prison for thirty-eight years. New Haven native and acclaimed author Nicholas Dawidoff returned home and spent eight years reporting the deeper story of this injustice, and what it reveals about the enduring legacies of social and economic disparity.
In The Other Side of Prospect, he has produced an immersive portrait of a seminal community in an old American city now beset by division and gun violence. Tracing the histories of three people whose lives meet in tragedy—victim Pete Fields, likely murderer Major, and Bobby—Dawidoff indelibly describes optimistic families coming north from South Carolina as part of the Great Migration, for the promise of opportunity and upward mobility, and the harrowing costs of deindustrialization and neglect. Foremost are the unique challenges confronted by children like Major and Bobby coming of age in their “forgotten” neighborhood, steps from Yale University. After years in prison, with the help of a true-believing lawyer, Bobby is finally set free. His subsequent struggles with the memories of prison, and his heartbreaking efforts to reconnect with family and community, exemplify the challenges the formerly incarcerated face upon reentry into society and, writes Reginald Dwayne Betts, make this “the best book about the crisis of incarceration in America.”
The Other Side of Prospect is a reportorial tour de force, at once a sweeping account of how the injustices of racism and inequality reverberate through the generations, and a beautifully written portrait of American city life, told through a group of unforgettable people and their intertwined experiences.
About the Author
Nicholas Dawidoff is the critically acclaimed author of five books, including The Catcher Was a Spy and In the Country of a Country. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and has also been a Guggenheim, Berlin Prize, and Art for Justice Fellow.
Dawidoff's portrait of prison life, its pointless mix of boredom, sadness and stress, is an important corrective…[The Other Side of Prospect] has the oomph of a classic American novel, one that sucker-punches you every time you remember that it's all true.
— Mark Oppenheimer - Washington Post
The result of eight years of reporting, this deft chronicle delves into the story of Bobby…Dawidoff presents portraits of the individuals involved, juxtaposed with research on segregation, the Great Migration, and mass incarceration.
— New Yorker
Not unlike Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, this is a book as gripping and fast-paced as a bestselling fictional mystery.
— Michael Henry Adams - The Guardian
A powerful, poignant and profound account of deindustrialization, racial discrimination, inequality and mass incarceration.
— Glenn Altschuler - The Florida Courier
A searing portrait of injustice in America.
— Publishers Weekly
[A] rigorously reported, urgent book.
— Kirkus Reviews
The Other Side of Prospect isn’t just a necessary American book, it’s an essential American book. By unraveling the long, profound story across generations that leads to one teenager twice confessing to a crime that he didn’t commit, Nicholas Dawidoff reveals just how pervasive the failures of our time can be. A child of intelligence and personal promise becomes a killer; an elderly grandfather is murdered; and an innocent boy suffers under the brutal weight of a nearly a decade in prison with memories no exoneration can erase. This is beyond the best book about the crisis of incarceration in America. It is also a book that reminds us indelibly that the Great Migration has tragically ended for many in not just the closing of factories and opportunities, but also the filling of graves and prison cells.
— Reginald Dwayne Betts, author of Felon
The Other Side of Prospect illuminates complex social issues—the Great Migration, mass incarceration, wrongful conviction, prisoner reentry—in deeply personal terms. This is a haunting, devastating, magnificent work of narrative nonfiction.
— James Forman Jr., Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Locking Up Our Own
This intricate book continues to grow like a tree in me—Bobby’s tender, persistent yearnings bound by the generations of contaminated soil that fear creates. Nicholas Dawidoff’s huge accomplishment is that he does the meticulous forensics of the crime of our fearing those in peril, and The Other Side of Prospect portrays the ongoing consequences of what we all continue to lose—all the knowledge lost, all the joy that’s stilled—when fear predominates. I finished reading his book with heartbreak and great gratitude. Its quest for broader justice pushes forward.
— Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, author of Random Family
The Other Side of Prospect is an intimate and haunting recovery of lives both lost and found, potential both squandered and realized, and struggles both failed and furthered. It forces us to face the brutal injustice and inequality that defines our nation’s justice system as well as one of its richest and most prestigious cities, and to take a hard look at the deeper roots and wider resonances of that ugliness. The true gift of Nicholas Dawidoff’s powerful recovery of this wrongful conviction and the fight to have it overturned, however, is its ability to help us to see what is still irrevocably beautiful about this country, and thus what still may be possible for its future.
— Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Blood in the Water
The Other Side of Prospect is a riveting narrative that shows and tells the story of a deeply distressed Black ghetto neighborhood severely challenged by the ills of deindustrialization, racialized poverty, and random street crime and violence—a must-read for anyone wishing to understand.
— Elijah Anderson, Sterling Professor of Sociology and of African American Studies, Yale University and author of Black in White Space