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The 2023 Pulitzer Prize Winners

By Maria Sadek, Clara Garnier-Barsanti & Grace Briggs-Jones

The Pulitzer Prize is an award administered by Columbia University for achievements in newspaper, magazine, online journalism, literature and musical composition within the United States. Established from provisions in the will of Joseph Pulitzer in 1917, prizes are awarded in a whopping twenty-two categories, with twenty-one winners receiving a certificate and $15,000, while the winner of the public service category receives a gold medal. One hundred jurors are selected by the Pulitzer Prize Board to serve on twenty-two separate juries, with all book juries having five members. All those nominated and entered into the award must be American, with some categories requiring a focus on American life, such as Drama and Fiction. Without further ado, let’s get into this year’s winners.


The first winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, an award reserved for distinguished work by an American author and preferably focussing on American life, is Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. In her novel, Kingsolver takes the classic tale of David Copperfield but applies it to an impoverished Appalachian setting, following the story of Damon Fields and his desire to survive the obstacles of addiction, morality and institutional failure that plague his life. The second winner is Trust by Hernan Diaz, an innovative novel that uses a variety of forms and structures to depict a 1920s America fuelled by capitalism. Diaz links four different narratives through themes of wealth, ambition and power to depict America on the cusp of the Great Depression.


This year’s winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History is Jefferson Cowie’s Freedom’s Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power. In this powerful book, Cowie investigates an Alabama county’s history and assesses how slavery and colonialism shaped the evolution of white supremacy, creating a powerful portrait of the connections between anti-government and racist ideologies. Although a local history, the Alabama county analysed in this book represents a powerful and deeply unsettling microcosm of American ideologies.


G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century by Beverly Gage is not only the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, but has also won the 2022 National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography, the 2023 Bancroft Prize in American History and Diplomacy and the American History Book Prize. Placing Hoover back at the centre of American political history, this story shines a light on the great social and political changes of 20th century America, from policing and civil rights, to political culture and ideology. It is a nuanced and definitive depiction of Hoover’s rise to power, as he used the tools of the state to create a personal fiefdom unrivaled in US history.


Who doesn’t like a coming-of-age story written with a gripping style? From his first encounter with Ken to the grief following his death, Hua Hsu recalls their university encounter and the friendship that followed. While, on the surface, everything opposes them, the two bonded on the deeper level. This is reflected in all the ways, small details and big life theories, by which Ken had left his print. Stay True by Hua Hsu is a wonderful memoir that follows two young Asian-American boys entering adult life on the East Coast while navigating through the troubled waters of identity.


The winning poetry collection is a selection of Carl Phillips’s best poems, extending from 2007 to 2020. As the Pulitzer committee described, Then the War is “[a] masterful collection that chronicles American culture as the country struggles to make sense of its politics, of life in the wake of a pandemic and of our place in a changing global community.” However, don’t let the title mislead you, as Carl Phillips chooses warm optimism, advocating for tenderness and human connections. If you want some life lessons encapsulated in finely crafted words, this collection is for you.

General Non-Fiction

Taking the top spot for general non-fiction is a book that reclaims the life of a man from the political symbol that his name has become. His Name Is George Floyd by Washington Post reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa is the definitive biography of George Floyd, shining an urgent light on systemic racism and inequality in modern America. This book manages to create an intimate portrait of Floyd’s one, emblematic life whilst also profiling the institutions that shaped it, delivering a powerful exploration of institutional racism and a public reckoning of unprecedented breadth and intensity.

A big congratulations to all those who took home a Pulitzer Prize this year; each winner was very deserving of their award! If any of this year’s winners have piqued your interest, be sure to grab a copy and dive right into American life in whatever form, be it fiction, biography or non-fiction!



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