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Witherle Words


By Rich Hewitt

Last month the Pulitzer Prize Board announced its awards honoring excellence in American journalism, letters, drama and music, continuing the tradition that began in 1917 as dictated by will of publisher Joseph Pulitzer.

While the Journalism Awards cover more categories, the awards for Letters, including Fiction, History, Biography, Poetry and General Nonfiction, often garner a fair amount of publicity. The works of this years’ winners and finalists offer a broad view of American writing from the sonnets of Diane Seuss to the memoir of the late artist Winfred Rembert and Cuba’s history as seen by Ada Ferrer. You can read these and the other prize-winning works along with the finalists at the Witherle Memorial Library where they are currently on display at the front desk.

Here’s the list of winners and finalists, along with the Pulitzer Board’s comments on the winning books. Take a look and see if anything peaks your interest.


The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family, by Joshua Cohen

A mordant, linguistically deft historical novel about the ambiguities of the Jewish-American experience, presenting ideas and disputes as volatile as its tightly-wound plot.

Monkey Boy, by Francisco Goldman

Palmares, by Gayl Jones


Covered with Night, by Nicole Eustace

A gripping account of Indigenous justice in early America, and how the aftermath of a settler’s murder of a Native American man led to the oldest continuously recognized treaty in the United                       States.

Cuba: An American History, by Ada Ferrer

An original and compelling history, spanning five centuries, of the island that became an obsession for many presidents and policy makers, transforming how we think about the U.S. in Latin America, and Cuba in American society.

Until Justice Be Done: America’s First Civil Rights Movement, from the Revolution to Reconstruction, by Kate Masur


Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South, by the late Winfred Rembert as told to Erin I. Kelly

A searing first-person illustrated account of an artist’s life during the 1950s and 1960s in an unreconstructed corner of the deep South–an account of abuse, endurance, imagination, and aesthetic transformation.

Pessoa: A Biography, by Richard Zenith

The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine, by Janice P. Nimura


frank: sonnets, by Diane Seuss

A virtuosic collection that inventively expands the sonnet form to confront the messy contradictions of contemporary America, including the beauty and the difficulty of working-class life in the Rust Belt.

Refractive Africa: Ballet of the Forgotten, by Will Alexander

Yellow Rain, by Mai Der Vang )


Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City, by Andrea Elliott (Random House)

An affecting, deeply reported account of a girl who comes of age during New York City’s homeless crisis–a portrait of resilience amid institutional failure that successfully merges literary narrative with policy analysis.

Home, Land, Security: Deradicalization and the Journey Back from Extremism, by Carla Power (One World/Random House)