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The Pulitzer Prizes for books went to a biography of Little House on the Prairie creator Laura Ingalls Wilder, a comedic novel about middle age, an environmental history of the Gulf of Mexico and a timely account of the mass incarceration of African-American men.
Andrew Sean Greer won the fiction prize for Less, his comedic novel about middle age. The story centers on failed novelist Andrew Less who is invited to his ex-boyfriend’s wedding on the eve of his 50th birthday. To avoid going, he accepts a handful of invitations to offbeat literary festivals around the world. The book is described as both a satire of the American abroad and a bittersweet look at growing old and getting second chances. This is Greer’s fifth novel. An earlier book, Loved, about a woman whose electroshock therapy sends her into alternate realities and times, is being developed for the screen by Madonna.
Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser won for biography. It tells the story of how Wilder (with help from her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane) turned her hardscrabble prairie childhood into a feel-good fantasy about the American dream and the settling of the West, and her father from a morally ambiguous character (he dodged conscription into the Union Army during the the Civil War) into a paragon of virtue.
Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman Jr. — son of famed civil rights leader James Forman — looks at the roots of today’s crisis in mass incarceration of black men by going back to the early 1970s when the War on Crime began. Forman shows how many of the first wave of black elected officials supported tougher sentences and more arrests. The book shows why they supported those policies and how their good intentions went awry. Incarceration has been a popular topic for the Pulitzers — last year the committee gave the history prize to Heather Thompson’s Blood in the Water, about the Attica Prison uprising of 1971.
The history prize went to Jack E. Davis’ environmental history of the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf: The Making of an American Sea, billed as the “tragic collision between civilization and nature.”
The prize for poetry went to Frank Bidart for Half-Light.