Republic of Detours Wins New Deal Book Award


Contacts: Richard Walker, [email protected]; Kurt Feichtmeir, [email protected]

Republic of Detours Wins New Deal Book Award

Author Scott Borchert to Receive Honors at FDR Library Reading Festival, June 18, 2022

Berkeley, California: Scott Borchert, author of Republic of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) has been named the winner of the Living New Deal’s first annual New Deal Book Award.

The Living New Deal received twelve nominations for the inaugural award. Borchert’s Republic of Detours, about the Federal Writers’ Project, was the unanimous choice of review committee, chaired by Distinguished Professor Eric Rauchway and including Professors Kimberley Johnson, Sharon Musher, Chloe Thurston, and Mason Williams.

Mary Jane Appel’s biography, Russell Lee: A Photographer’s Life and Legacy, (Liveright Books in association with the Library of Congress) was runner up for the 2021 award.

Of Republic of Detours the Award Committee wrote:

“Borchert weaves together biography and geography to paint a vivid picture of the Federal Writers’ Project. Borchert draws on participants’ memoirs as well as his research in the National Archives and the Library of Congress. It is a beautifully written and timely book, whose ramble through the lives of New Dealers reminds us of what can be accomplished when the federal government supports American artists to create an enduring legacy.”

Photo credit: Addie Borchert

Borchert will receive the award and $1,000 prize on Saturday, June 18, 2022, as part of the 18th Annual Roosevelt Reading Festival at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY. This year’s festival will feature authors of recently published books, including three who were nominated for the New Deal Book Award—Scott Borchert, Mary Jane Appel and Greg Zipes, author of Justice and Faith: The Frank Murphy Story, (University of Michigan Press).

“The New Deal continues to be mined for new insights by scholars and writers, but there has never before been an award for books about that transformative era and its ongoing reverberations,” said Dr. Richard Walker, director of the Living New Deal. “The Living New Deal is breaking new ground in carrying on the New Deal legacy.”

“When the 21st-Century Federal Writers’ Project Act (H.R. 3054) becomes law, Republic of Detours will deserve a lot of the credit,” said David Kipen, Critic-at-Large for the Los Angeles Times. “Like the original WPA American Guides, Borchert’s book takes an ungovernably huge amount of information and distills it like fine Scotch. The one significant difference with Republic of Detours is we know exactly whose genius to thank.”

The Living New Deal’s webinar series featured an interview with Scott Borchert and David Kipen in August, 2021. WATCH: “The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Federal Writers’ Project.”

The Living New Deal, a nonprofit in Berkeley, California, is documenting the legacy of the New Deal and those who were part of it. It launched the New Deal Book Award to recognize nonfiction works about the New Deal era.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, in Hyde Park, NY, is the nation’s first presidential library. Administered by the National Archives and Records Administration, the Library preserves and makes accessible to the American people the records of FDR’s presidency. 

Nominations are being accepted for the 2022 award. The deadline for submissions is November 14, 2022. Guidelines for submissions.

The 2021 New Deal Book Award, Honorable Mention:

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater: American Architecture in the Depression Era, by Catherine W. Zipf. (Routledge),  

Frank Porter Graham: Southern Liberal, Citizen of the World, by William A. Link. (University of North Carolina Press)

Additional 2021 Nominations:

David Gates, Tennessee Post Office Murals, Post Office Fans.

Thomas Guglielmo, Divisions: A New History of Racism and Resistance in America’s World War II Military, Oxford University Press.

Peter Hiller, The Life and Times of Jo Mora: Iconic Artist of the American West, Gibbs-Smith.

Jonathan Levy, Ages of American Capitalism, Random House/Penguin Random House.

Maribel Morey, White Philanthropy: Carnegie Corporation’s An American Dilemma and the Making of a White World Order, University of North Carolina Press.

Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, Indentured Students: How Government-Guaranteed Loans Left Generations Drowning in College Debt, Harvard University Press.

Wendy Van Wyck Good, Sisters in Art: The Biography of Margaret, Esther, and Helen Bruton, West Margin Press.

Greg Zipes, Justice and Faith: The Frank Murphy Story, University of Michigan Press.