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US author Colson Whitehead wins Pulitzer prize for fiction for the second time

 

The Straits Times/Asia News Network

New York, United States  /  Wed, May 6, 2020  /  06:04 pm
US author Colson Whitehead wins Pulitzer prize for fiction for the second time

US author Colson Whitehead is pictured at the Frankfurt book fair 2019 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on October 19, 2019. (AFP/Daniel Roland)

American author Colson Whitehead's novel The Nickel Boys, which chronicles the horrors of a reform school in Florida, has made him the fourth person ever to win the Pulitzer prize for fiction twice.

The 50-year-old won the same award in 2017 for his book The Underground Railroad.

Colson joins Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner and John Updike as authors who had won the Pulitzer prize for fiction twice, BBC reported.

The Pulitzer Prizes have been handed out since 1917, when newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer established them in his will.

They are awarded in 15 journalism categories and seven book, drama and music categories. Winners are traditionally announced in Columbia University in New York.

This year, however, Pulitzer administrator Dana Canedy delivered the news on Monday in a video filmed from her living room, following weeks of remote discussion between the 18 board members.

The prize for general non-fiction was given to two books, Anne Boyer's The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer And Care; and The End Of The Myth: From The Frontier To The Border Wall In The Mind Of America by Greg Grandin.

The music award went to The Central Park Five, an opera by Anthony Davis about the five African-American and Latino teenagers wrongly convicted in the 1989-1990 New York "Central Park jogger" rape case.

This year, an audio reporting prize was also given out for the first time, The Guardian reported.

The podcast This American Life, along with Los Angeles Times reporter Molly O'Toole and Emily Green, a freelancer with Vice News, were commended for an episode examining the effects of the American President Donald Trump administration's "Remain in Mexico" policy.

Considered the most coveted journalism award, the prize for public service journalism went to Alaska newspaper Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica, which is based in New York. Their reporting on indigenous populations in Alaska's rural villages revealed rampant sexual abuse and the lack of police protection there, reported Reuters.

Photography staff from Reuters won the breaking photography award for documenting last year's violent protests in Hong Kong, while The Washington Post won the explanatory journalism award for a series on climate change.

The New York Times, which had won a record 127 Pulitzer prizes and citations before this year, received three more on Monday (May 4). These included the commentary prize for Nikole Hannah-Jones' personal essay launching the newspaper's sweeping 1619 Project, which "seeks to place the enslavement of Africans at the centre of America's story", in the words of the Pulitzer board.

A posthumous special citation was also given to Ida B. Wells, the African-American investigative journalist and civil rights activist.

Wells, who was born into slavery in Mississippi in 1862, chronicled the use of lynching to oppress black Americans.

A US$50,000 (S$70,820) donation will be made in support of her mission, with the recipients to be announced later.

"Ironically, the very first time the prizes were presented was June 1917 - less than a year before the 1918 outbreak of the Spanish Flu pandemic," Ms Canedy was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"During this season of unprecedented uncertainty, one thing we know for sure is that journalism never stops."

Some of the winners:

  • Fiction: The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
  • Drama: A Strange Loop by Michael R. Jackson
  • History: Sweet Taste Of Liberty: A True Story Of Slavery And Restitution In America by W. Caleb McDaniel
  • Biography: Sontag: Her Life And Work by Benjamin Moser
  • Poetry: The Tradition by Jericho Brown
  • General Non-fiction: The End Of The Myth: From The Frontier To The Border Wall In The Mind Of America by Greg Grandin; The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer And Care by Anne Boyer
  • Music: The Central Park Five by Anthony Davis

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This article appeared on The Straits Times newspaper website, which is a member of Asia News Network and a media partner of The Jakarta Post