The Pulitzer Prize winners were announced on May 4, 2020. The Prizes are given not only for excellence in journalism, but for writing in fiction, poetry, and more. Check out the book prize winners below.
As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart. Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, a grotesque chamber of horrors where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear “out back.” Elwood’s friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. The tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades.
“Benjamin Moser’s Sontag, a biography of Susan Sontag, is a portrait of the iconoclastic and prolific essayist, novelist, and critic and her role in the history of American intellectualism” — Provided by publisher.
Jericho Brown’s daring new book The Tradition details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal. Brown’s poetic concerns are both broad and intimate, and at their very core a distillation of the incredibly human: What is safety? Who is this nation? Where does freedom truly lie? Brown makes mythical pastorals to question the terrors to which we’ve become accustomed, and to celebrate how we survive. Poems of fatherhood, legacy, blackness, queerness, worship, and trauma are propelled into stunning clarity by Brown’s mastery, and his invention of the duplex–a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues–testament to his formal skill. The Tradition is a cutting and necessary collection, relentless in its quest for survival while reveling in a celebration of contradiction.
From a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a new and eye-opening interpretation of the meaning of the frontier, from early westward expansion to Trump’s border wall. Ever since this nation’s inception, the idea of an open and ever-expanding frontier has been central to American identity. Symbolizing a future of endless promise, it was the foundation of the United States’ belief in itself as an exceptional nation–democratic, individualistic, forward-looking. Today, though, America hasa new symbol: the border wall. In The End of the Myth, acclaimed historian Greg Grandin explores the meaning of the frontier throughout the full sweep of U.S. history–from the American Revolution to the War of 1898, the New Deal to the election of 2016. For centuries, he shows, America’s constant expansion–fighting wars and opening markets–served as a “gate of escape,” helping to deflect domestic political and economic conflicts outward. But this deflection meant that the country’s problems, from racism to inequality, were never confronted directly. And now, the combined catastrophe of the 2008 financial meltdown and our unwinnable wars in the Middle East have slammed this gate shut, bringing political passions that had long been directed elsewhere back home. It is this new reality, Grandin says, that explains the rise of reactionary populism and racist nationalism, the extreme anger and polarization that catapulted Trump to the presidency. The border wall may or may not be built, but it will survive as a rallying point, an allegorical tombstone marking the end of American exceptionalism.
A fresh, fierce, and timely meditation on data, pain, time, and the limited capacity of literature to comprehend life and death in a sensate and vulnerable body.