The 2016 Pulitzer Prizes were announced today. Established in 1917 by provisions in the will of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories. For our purposes, we’ll skip the journalism awards and focus on the Letters and Drama categories.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
A layered immigrant tale told in the wry, confessional voice of a “man of two minds” — and two countries, Vietnam and the United States.
Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Hamilton is the acclaimed new hip-hop musical about the scrappy young immigrant Alexander Hamilton, the $10 Founding Father who forever changed America with his revolutionary ideas and actions. During his life cut too short, he served as George Washington’s chief aide, was the first Treasury Secretary of the United States, a loving husband and father, despised by his fellow Founding Fathers, and shot to death by Aaron Burr in a legendary duel.
Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles
A rich and surprising new telling of the journey of the iconic American soldier whose death turns out not to have been the main point of his life.
Biography or Autobiography
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan
A finely crafted memoir of a youthful obsession that has propelled the author through a distinguished writing career.
Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick
A deeply reported book of remarkable clarity showing how the flawed rationale for the Iraq War led to the explosive growth of the Islamic State.
Ozone Journal by Peter Balakian
The title poem recounts the memory of the speaker’s excavating the bones of Armenian genocide victims in the Syrian desert with a TV journalist crew in 2009. The speaker “dreams back,” as it were, to the 1980s, when, as a young man in his thirties and caring for a young daughter after a recent divorce, he is having to juggle both personal and cultural/historical complexities living as a single parent in Manhattan. The poems create a montage that has the feel of history as lived experience, with the speaker struggling with the nature of memory as the poems move constantly back and forth to the Syrian desert, the dissolution of his marriage, visits and conversations with a cousin dying of AIDS, and encounters with famous jazz producers at Columbia Records to discuss music. In this book, Peter Balakian aims at the bigger picture of humanity’s history of atrocity and trauma, but through short vignettes grounded in everyday situations, and in particular times and places