Last year's biggest Pulitzer announcement was the one that wasn't made, as the board decided not to award a fiction winner for the first time since 1977. This year's announcement was less controversial, as prizes were given in every category, including Fiction for Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son (Random House).
Other winners were: Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam by Fredrik Logevall (History); The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss (Biography); Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds (Poetry); Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King (General Nonfiction).
In the citation for Johnson's novel, The Orphan Master's Son was called "an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart." Though the Pulitzer historically awards works "preferably dealing with American life," Johnson's novel takes place mostly in North Korea. PW's review stated: "Johnson’s novel accomplishes the seemingly impossible: an American writer has masterfully rendered the mysterious world of North Korea with the soul and savvy of a native." For more on the book, see PW's profile of Johnson. The other fiction finalists were What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander (Knopf) and The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown).
In winning the History prize, Embers of War (Random House) was cited for: "a balanced, deeply researched history of how, as French colonial rule faltered, a succession of American leaders moved step by step down a road toward full-blown war." Random House's David Ebershoff was the editor of both Embers of War and The Orphan Master's Son. The other History finalists were Bernard Bailyn for The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 (Knopf) and John Fabian Witt for Lincoln's Code: The Laws of War in American History (Free Press).
In a case of fact meeting fiction, Tom Reiss's The Black Count (Crown) won for Biography. The citation read: "The Black Count [is] a compelling story of a forgotten swashbuckling hero of mixed race whose bold exploits were captured by his son, Alexander Dumas, in famous 19th century novels." Other finalists were Michael Gorra's Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece (Liveright) and David Nasaw's The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy (Penguin).
For Stag's Leap (Knopf), Poetry winner Sharon Olds was recognized for "a book of unflinching poems on the author’s divorce that examine love, sorrow and the limits of self-knowledge." Collected Poems by Jack Gilbert (Knopf) and The Abundance of Nothing by Bruce Weigl (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern) were the other finalists.
Gilbert King's Devil in the Grove (Harper) was cited as: "a richly detailed chronicle of racial injustice in the Florida town of Groveland in 1949, involving four black men falsely accused of rape and drawing a civil rights crusader, and eventual Supreme Court justice, into the legal battle." Other finalists were Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo (Random House) and The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature by David George Haskell (Viking).
On the morning after the prize announcments were made, only The Orphan Master's Son had risen to Amazon's top 100, going from #1,846 (before the announcment) to #6. Three other winners saw a sizable increase: Stag's Leap went to #289 (from #82,000) and The Black Count went to #222 (from #13,000) and Embers of War went to #373 (from #33,000). Devil in the Grove was #963 as of April 16.