THOMAS WOLF named winner of 2020 Sophie Brody Medal for achievement in Jewish literature

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) has announced its selection for the 2020 Sophie Brody Medal, an annual honor bestowed by the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) of RUSA at ALA’s Midwinter Meeting today in Philadelphia.

This year’s winner is Thomas Wolf, author of The Nightingale’s Sonata: The Musical Odyssey of Lea Luboshutz, published by Pegasus Books. This meticulously researched and highly readable biography/family memoir spans continents and generations in telling the story of a once-celebrated violinist whose life was a microcosm for the experiences of many Jewish immigrants from the Pale of Settlement to America. Written by the subject’s grandson, it illuminates the life of a remarkable Jewish woman while weaving together such disparate elements as the Russian Revolution, fear of pogroms, immigrant life, and twentieth-century women’s issues, with lovely music as the backdrop.

Honorable mentions include Leah Hager Cohen, author of Strangers and Cousins, published by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House; Alice Hoffman, author of The World That We Knew, published by Simon & Schuster; and Daniel Okrent, author of The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians and Other European Immigrants Out of America, published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

The Sophie Brody Medal is given to encourage, recognize and commend outstanding achievement in Jewish literature. Works for adults published in the United States in the preceding year are eligible for the award.

This year’s winner and honor books were selected by the Sophie Brody Medal committee: Erin Fishman, Loudoun County Public Library, chair; Janet Schneider, Peninsula Public Library; Samantha Helmick, Burlington Public Library; Adela Peskorz, Metropolitan State University; Kristine Sandy; Karen Shaw-Widman, East Meadow Public Library; and Valerie Taylor.

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Learn more at