Book Prize for Nonfiction

Congratulations to our winner of the 2022 Book Prize in Nonfiction!



Brook McClurg, A Dictionary of Modern Consternation

Headshot of author Brook McClurgWith verve and finesse, A Dictionary of Modern Consternation reimagines the hybrid, using form to probe the essential paradox of language: how can something so unstable create the conditions for confinement? Part Lydia Davis, part Jenny Boully, and all the way himself, Brook McClurg invites us into the space between distance and intimacy, bone and blood, rock and sky, cracking open the field of the page and giving us a place to wander and transform.Paul Lisicky, author of Later: My Life at the Edge of the World



A Dictionary of Modern Consternation is a genre-bending nonfiction lyric following one family through the years from the financial crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this cheeky dictionary-shaped exploration of how language can often alienate and dehumanize, weakening feelings of community with societal trends that subsume individual lives, Brook McClurg offers a footnote narrative of an international life pursuing the business of words. 
What starts as a lighthearted academic exploration becomes real when the pandemic hits—at the letter P—and the ability to treat each other humanely suddenly has grave consequences. Questioning the ways specialized jargon in language—often corporate, legal, and militaristic in nature—encroaches on our feelings of community and responsibility to one another, McClurg employs an abecedarian format, concealing his meaningful and sensitive explorations of personal strife inside a more formal facade. A Dictionary of Modern Consternation reveals its subjective viewpoint and ironic tone over the course of the text, confronting themes of loneliness and isolation, global strife and endless war, and intimacy, love, and family. 
With approximately 500 satirical dictionary entries and 143 flash essays as footnotes, this experimental memoir is filled with satirical definitions, pseudo-aphorisms, and inquisitions into words or phrases. A Dictionary of Modern Consternation is for general readers, collectors, book-as-art lovers, and anyone interested in the political economy of language, as well as graduate classes exploring experimental forms.




About Joy Castro

Headshot of author and judge Joy Castro
Joy Castro is the author of seven books: the memoir The Truth Book (2005); the literary thrillers Hell or High Water (2012), Nearer Home (2013), and Flight Risk (2021); the essay collection Island of Bones (2013); the short story collection How Winter Began (2015); and the forthcoming historical novel One Brilliant Flame (2023). She edited Family Trouble: Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family (2013), co-edited special issues of Brevity on gender and race, and serves as the founding series editor of Machete, a nonfiction series at The Ohio State University Press. A former Writer in Residence at Vanderbilt University, she is the Willa Cather Professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where she directs the Institute for Ethnic Studies and teaches creative writing, literature, and Latinx studies.