Underground Railroad Wins Pulitzer in Fiction

underground-railroad-coverThe Pulitzer Prizes were announced this afternoon, and while most of the attention goes to the journalism awards, the Pulitzer committee also makes awards in arts & letters. This year’s winner for fiction was Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad. ECW’s Chris Mackowski offered a review last October, calling the novel “unfliching” and “harrowing.”

The Pulitzer committee cited The Underground Railroad as “a smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.”

In December, The Underground Railroad won the National Book Award for fiction. It was also selected by The Oprah for Oprah’s Book Club. Meanwhile, Whitehead was a finalist for the Pulitzer in 2002 for his novel John Henry Days (“And he wrote a really great zombie apocalypse novel, Zone One,” Chris Mackowski says).

Also of interest to ECW readers might be one of the finalists in the history category, New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America, by Wendy Warren (Liveright/W.W. Norton). The Pulitzer committee described the book as “a groundbreaking study that alters our view of history by showing how deeply embedded slavery became in 17th-century northern colonies.” 

Another book with a Civil War connection was a finalist in the general nonfiction category, The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery, by Micki McElya (Harvard University Press). The committee called the book “a luminous investigation of how policies and practices at Arlington National Cemetery have mirrored the nation’s fierce battles over race, politics, honor and loyalty.”

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