Native Writers Win Pulitzer Prizes

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Native Writers Awarded Pulitzer Prizes in Fiction and Poetry

Two Native American writers were among the 2021 Pulitzer Prize winners on June 11, 2021. Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe) received the award for fiction for her novel The Night Watchman (Harper). Natalie Diaz (Mojave/Pima) received the award for Poetry for her collection Postcolonial Love Poem (Graywolf).

Image courtesy of HarperCollins.

Erdrich is the second Native novelist to receive the fiction prize, following Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn in 1969. The Pulitzer site describes Erdrich’s novel as “a majestic, polyphonic novel about a community’s efforts to halt the proposed displacement and elimination of several Native American tribes in the 1950s, rendered with dexterity and imagination.” The novel is inspired by Erdrich’s grandfather, who helped resist a congressional effort to withdraw federal recognition of their tribe in the 1950s. A well-known and prolific writer whose works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for both adults and children have won numerous awards, Erdrich also founded and owns Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which focuses on books by and about Native people.

Postcolonial Love Poem

Image courtesy of Graywolf Press.

Diaz is the first Native American to receive the Pulitzer for Poetry. The Pulitzer website describes her collection is described on the Pulitzer website as “a collection of tender, heart-wrenching, and defiant poems that explore what it means to love and be loved in an America beset by conflict.” A former professional basketball player, Diaz now teaches for the Arizona State University Creative Writing MFA program. In January 2021, she became the youngest chancellor ever elected to the Academy of American Poets.

Suzan Shown Harjo (Southern Cheyenne/Muscogee) reviewed Erdrich’s novel The Round House (for which she received the 2012 National Book Award for Fiction) in the first issue of FAAM no. 0, Spring 2013. Reid Gómez (Diné) profiled Natalie Diaz in FAAM no. 5, Winter 2014.

 

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Copy-edited by Cady de la Cruz (Andean-American)

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