The Underground Railroad Wins Pulitzer Prize

Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad has won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The citation says Whitehead’s book was chosen “For 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.”

As the publisher describes the story:

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

The Pulitzer Prize, worth $15,000, goes to “distinguished fiction published in book form during the year by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.”

The winner was determined by a jury composed of Eric Banks (Chair), Director, New York Institute for the Humanities, New York University; Lan Samantha Chang, Director and May Brodbeck Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa Writers’ Workshop, University of Iowa; Mary Ann Gwinn, Book Editor, Seattle Times.

Overcoming a historic mainstream bias, in the past two decades speculative fiction has contended for the Pulitzer several times. In 2016 Kelly Link’s Get in Trouble: Stories was one of two finalists, while past winners have included The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (2007) and The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (2001).

Kelly Link Reaches Finals of Pulitzer Prize

Kelly Link

Kelly Link

The 2016 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced today. In the Fiction category, Kelly Link’s Get in Trouble: Stories was one of two finalists which finished behind the winner, a non-genre work, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel The Sympathizer.

The Pulitzer Prize site described Get in Trouble: Stories as “A collection of short stories in which a writer with a fertile and often fabulist imagination explores inner lies and odd corners of reality.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]