Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City
Investigative journalist Andrea Elliott puts a human face to some of the nation’s biggest challenges. She recently adapted her George Polk award-winning series on homelessness into a book. Invisible Child—named one of the best books of the year by NPR, Amazon, and the New York Times Book Review—tells the riveting story of a girl whose indomitable spirit is tested by homelessness, poverty, and racism in an unequal America. Described as “a remarkable achievement that speaks to the heart and conscience of a nation” (Publishers Weekly), Elliott’s immersive reporting, carried out over eight years, illuminates the real-life impact of structural racism alongside the failure of our institutions.
“A vivid and devastating story of American inequality.”— The New York Times
Originally a five-part series, Invisible Child reignited a conversation about the dire state of poverty in America—prompting New York City to remove over 400 children from substandard care. Today, it’s an extraordinary book—already named the best non-fiction book of 2021 by Amazon and “destined to become one of the classics of the genre” (Newsweek). It was also featured in the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books list, as well as chosen as one of its top five non-fiction books of the year. Following the life of an 11-year-old girl in Brooklyn, Elliott reveals the struggles of growing up poor and Black in an American city with heartbreaking precision. But Invisible Child is more than a tale of hardship: it is a story of triumph, resilience, family, and the endurance of love, told through the lens of inequality. Urgent, necessary, and vividly captured, Elliott’s book shines a light on contemporary issues through the life of one remarkable girl.
Elliott is also a distinguished chronicler of Muslims in America. Gaining unparalleled access to the nation’s Muslim communities, her stories have explored the travails of a young Egyptian imam in Brooklyn, the challenges of Muslims serving in the U.S. military, and the simmering conflicts between Muslim immigrants and African-American converts to Islam. Her stories broke new ground in the study of radicalization, illuminating why a subset of young western Muslims have taken the militant path. Elliott’s coverage of Islam in America earned her the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, along with many other awards. Her cover story on suicide bombers in Morocco won an Overseas Press Club award. In their citation, the judges wrote that Elliott’s “account, beautifully written, provides an unparalleled look into the making of terrorists and is a reporting tour de force.”
Elliot is an investigative reporter for The New York Times and a former staff writer at The Miami Herald. She has served as an Emerson Collective fellow at New America, a visiting journalist at the Russell Sage Foundation, and a visiting scholar at the Columbia Population Research Center. Elliott is the recipient of a Whiting Foundation grant, and she also received Columbia University’s Medal for Excellence, given to one alumnus or alumna under the age of forty-five. She has appeared on media such as NPR’s Fresh Air and Talk of the Nation, CNN, and the BBC.
More than a decade after 9/11, American Muslims are confronting a stark new reality: mounting opposition to the construction of mosques, congressional hearings into the radicalization of Muslim youth and rising hate crimes against Muslims. Americans hold a less favorable view of Islam today than even after the attacks. What happened?
To answer this question, Andrea Elliott transports her audiences into the little-known world of American Islam—a community in search of itself. As terrorism in the name of Islam endures, Muslims in America are engaged in an urgent quest to reclaim their faith. At the same time, they must reckon with widespread government surveillance and persistent media coverage, driven by a powerful, grass-roots movement that routinely characterizes Muslims as untrustworthy and dangerous.
Elliott mixes gripping, human anecdotes with careful analysis to paint a nuanced and unforgettable portrait of today's Muslim Americans and their opponents. Drawing on award-winning reporting, she illuminates the key themes of the last decade through the stories of young Muslims at a crossroads: alienated teenagers seeking refuge in their faith, women mobilizing for progressive reforms, religious leaders striving to balance the strictures of Islam with the pressures of contemporary American culture. Elliott’s lecture traces the evolution of America’s Muslims—who they are and how they identify politically, socially and religiously. In the process, she explains what their struggles in America tell us about the broader crisis within Islam and its future in the West.