The American Library Association has chosen College of Staten Island Professor of Creative Nonfiction Ava Chin’s latest release Mott Street: A Chinese American Family’s Story of Exclusion and Homecoming (Penguin Press, 2023) as a 2024 Notable Book in Nonfiction, one of 12 nonfiction works on their esteemed list.  

Perhaps best known for its awards in children’s literature like the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, the American Library Association (ALA) has highlighted the best books of the year for the nation’s readers since 1944. This year’s Notable Books list consists of what the ALA’s Notable Books Council considers the best 26 fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books. 

“I could not be happier,” said Prof. Chin. “It’s such a great honor that the ALA has given Mott Street and the other books on the list. Librarians across the country are doing so much of the heavy lifting of getting awareness out there of all the different stories that are available. It was a banner year for Asian American literature and memoir, so the fact that they singled out my book is very rewarding.”  

Prof. Chin is grateful that the book has received critical praise from the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, and was chosen as a TIME 100 Must-Read Book, but she is even more thankful that readers have been able to identify with the personal story of her family’s history as Chinese Americans living in Manhattan since the 1880s. “When I initially started, I thought that I was just trying to tell my story, trying to understand myself in relation to those who came before me,” she explained. “I didn’t realize there was a larger story that is connected with our American history, immigration history, the fight for our civil rights, and the hidden stories of old New York that not a lot of New Yorkers know about. It was fun to uncover.” 

Prof. Chin also feels that Mott Street is a story connected to CUNY in many ways. “I was an undergrad at Queens College in the ‘90s when I started doing the research for this book, and it just led me on this decades-long journey to understand my family and this legacy of being Chinese American and the reasons why my family laid down roots in lower Manhattan, on Mott Street, in an apartment building where so many generations were born and raised. To be able to tell that story now as a CUNY professor is really gratifying and getting this recognition is the cherry on top.” 

The ALA’s Notable Books Council released its list of award winners last month in Baltimore at the Reference & User Services Book & Media Awards Ceremony. They note that in Mott Street: “Lost and erased stories from multiple generations find new life in this imaginative and epic recounting.” 

For the full list of ALA Notable Books for 2024, visit the RUSA Website