They are America’s most prestigious awards, not only for journalists, but also for historians, poets, playwrights, non-fiction writers, composers and novelists.
Novelist Joshua Cohen won his first fictional Pulitzer for The Netanyahus: Narrative of a Minor and Eventually Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family. Winner of the 2021 National Jewish Book Prize, it has been described by the Pulitzer Committee as “a biting, linguistically adept historical novel about the ambiguities of the Jewish-American experience, presenting ideas and disputes as volatile as its tight plot.” .
In the drama category, James Ijames won for Fatty ham, a comedy that received rave reviews when staged at the Wilma Theater in the playwright’s hometown of Philadelphia and will soon open at the Public Theater in New York City. It’s based on a play you may have heard of – Hamlet by William Shakespeare – but set in a southern barbecue restaurant. In a review last year, The New York Times describe Fatty ham as “hilarious yet profound”, adding “it’s the rare take-off that actually takes off – then flies in its own clever direction”.
The Pulitzer for non-fiction went to Andrea Elliott for Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival, and Hope in an American City. “The title’s invisible child is Dasani Coates,” NPR reviewer Erika Taylor wrote in her review of the book last year. she met the author of the book, a Pulitzer winner New York Times journalist who followed Coates and his family for eight years, tracking what Taylor calls “an astounding array of heartbreaking tragedies and remarkable triumphs.”
Two prizes were awarded to historians working in the same department at New York University. Ada Ferrer wrote Cuba: An American Historydescribed by the Pulitzer Committee as “quirky and fascinating… spanning five centuries, of the island that has become an obsession for many presidents and policy makers. ” And Nicole Eustache is the author Covered in Night: A History of Native Murder and Justice in Early America. It’s the the committee said, “a gripping account of Native justice in early America, and how the aftermath of a settler’s murder led to the oldest continuously recognized treaty in the United States.
Diane Seuss won the Pulitzer for Poetry for frank: sonnets. Price racks up another win for the small but mighty Graywolf Press, a Pulitzer powerhouse. Seuss is a famous Midwestern poet trained as a social worker; this book was described by the committee as “a virtuoso collection that inventively expands sonnet form to confront the messy contradictions of contemporary America, including the beauty and difficulty of working-class life in the Rust Belt”.
In biography, the late artist Winfred Rembert won with collaborator Erin I. Kelly for Chasing Me to My Grave: Memoirs of a Jim Crow South Artist.
“He didn’t want to tell his story for a long time,” the artist’s wife Patsy Rembert told NPR in this August 2021 story. “He was talking to me and he was like, ‘No one’s going to believe me. But we have documented some of these things. And I feel like he’s telling his story – he’s telling a story about a lot of – more black people who endured these things, who had no voice, who couldn’t find a safe shelter to talk about it. Even today, some people don’t talk about what happened to them or what they saw. Lots of things happened in the South that never made it to the newspapers. No one wants to talk about them, but they are coming. These things happen.
And that of Raven Chacon Mass without voice, which premiered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in November 2021, is this year’s Pulitzer Laureate for Music. The committee calls the work “a fascinating and original work for organ and ensemble that evokes the weight of history in a church setting, a concentrated and powerful musical expression with a haunting visceral impact”.