A 105-Year First in Pulitzer Prize Fiction Category

2 books shared the honor
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 9, 2023 12:19 AM CDT
In Pulitzer Prize Fiction Category, a 105-Year First
"Demon Copperhead," by Barbara Kingsolver, "G-MAN: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century" by Beverly Gage, "His Name is George Floyd,” by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, "Stay True" by Hua Hsu, "Then the War: And Selected Poems,” by Carl Phillips, and "Trust" by Hernan Diaz.   (Harper/Viking/Viking/Doubleday/FSG/Riverhead via AP)

The Pulitzer Prize for fiction was awarded Monday to two class-conscious novels: Demon Copperhead, Barbara Kingsolver’s modern recasting of the Dickens classic David Copperfield, and Hernan Diaz’s Trust, an innovative narrative of wealth and deceit set in 1920s New York. It’s the first time the Pulitzers have awarded two fiction books in the category’s 105-year history, the AP reports. Officials have declined to name a fiction winner several times, mostly recently in 2012. Trust won the Kirkus Prize for fiction, was on the long list for the Booker Prize, and was named by the New York Times and the Washington Post as one of the year’s best books. Kingsolver’s novel, the story of a young boy’s struggles and persistence as he grows up in southern Appalachia, was chosen by Oprah Winfrey last fall for her book club and named by the Washington Post as a top release of 2022.

Speaking by phone Monday, Kingsolver, 68, said she regards the Pulitzer as an affirmation not just of her novel, but of a misunderstood and overlooked part of the country. Kingsolver is a longtime resident of Appalachia who currently lives on a farm in southwestern Virginia, and set Demon Copperhead close by. Diaz, also interviewed by phone, sees his book and Kingsolver's novel as approaching a similar subject, class, from different perspectives. Demon Copperhead dramatizes life on the lower end of the extreme divide between rich and poor. Trust, which begins with a novel-within-the novel about a financial tycoon and his daughter, explores how such a world is created.

“I wanted to talk about the process itself of the accumulation of wealth,” said Diaz, 49, whose debut novel In the Distance was a Pulitzer finalist. “I wanted to deal with class and money, and how money is really made.” Several works with racial themes were honored Monday. Beverly Gage’s G-Man, her widely acclaimed book on longtime FBI leader J. Edgar Hoover, was given the Pulitzer for biography after previously receiving the Bancroft Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize from the New-York Historical Society. It was the first major Hoover biography in decades and was cited by Pulitzer judges for its “deeply researched and nuanced look” at Hoover's “monumental achievements and crippling flaws,” including his persecution of Martin Luther King Jr.

story continues below

His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice, by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, won for general nonfiction, and Jefferson Cowie’s Freedom’s Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power was honored for history. The Pulitzer for music was given to Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels for the opera Omar, about an Islamic scholar captured and sold into slavery. Sanaz Toossi’s play English, about four Iranian adults preparing for an English language exam in a storefront school near Tehran, won for drama. The Pulitzer for memoir or autobiography was given to Hua Hsu’s Stay True. One of the country’s most highly regarded poets, Carl Phillips, won in poetry for Then the War: And Selected Poems, 2007-2020. (See the journalism winners here.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.