The 2017 Pulitzer Prize winners were recently announced at a New York City ceremony yesterday, and we learned that 21 authors were honored for their memorable work. The most exciting part was seeing four black writers awarded a Pulitzer Prize, encouraging us all to believe that diversity is on the rise in the literary world.
Poetry: Olio, by Tyehimba Jess
Criticism: Hilton Als, The New Yorker
Drama: Sweat, by Lynn Nottage
Fiction: The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
Olio is a collection of sonnets and narratives that focuses on the “unrecorded African-American performers” that lived between the Civil War and World War I. It’s already received a great deal of praise for being “encyclopedic, ingenious, and abundant.” Jess is a poet who studied at NYU and the Cave Canem program.
The drama Sweat written by Nottage is a “must-see” Broadway show that tells the story of working class friends who work in a factory that’s slowly declining. This is the second time Nottage has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, which makes her the first female playwright to be given this honor twice.
Als wrote multiple theater criticism pieces for the New Yorker in 2016, most of them focusing on the intersection of identity, race, sexuality, and class. He wrote a review of Nottage’s play Sweat and Dreamgirls, which is an adaptation of The Color Purple.
Finally, you may have heard of The Underground Railroad, Whitehead’s novel that is being turned into a film by Moonlight director Barry Jenkins. The story takes place in the 1850s in Georgia, where a teenager named Cora is trying to escape her way to freedom.
We’re so happy that these accomplished writers of color are being recognized in such a big way. We look forward to the other amazing work that’s in their future!