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Adam Johnson won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Orphan Master’s Son. The book is set in North Korea and follows the life of Jun Do, son of the Orphan Master, as he rises through the ranks. He eventually becomes one of Kim Jong-il’s greatest threats and must risk his life to try to help his wife and stepchildren escape the nation.
Johnson is the author of two previous works: the novel Parasites Like Us and the short story collection Emporium. The Orphan Master’s Son is Johnson’s first book in nearly nine years and was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award.
The finalists for this year were Nathan Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, a collection of short stories dealing with Jewish life, and The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, a novel about a couple living in Alaska.
Both Englander and Johnson’s book were discussed previously as potential Pulitzer Prize winners by Toonari Post, and the list that was used for the Pulitzer Prize predictions had The Orphan Master’s Son ranked as the fourth most likely book to win.
Controversially, no award for Fiction was given last year because the judges decided that none of the finalists were deserving of the award.
The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is the most prestigious American literary prize. Past winners include Ernest Hemingway, Saul Bellow John Steinbeck, Junot Diaz and Jennifer Egan. Only one American author, William Faulkner, has won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the most prestigious literary prize in the world, without first winning the Pulitzer. However, Faulkner went on to win two Pulitzers.
Winners must be U.S. citizens, and the winner of the history category must have written a book about American history. The other winners this year were Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam by Fredrik Logevall for history, Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds for poetry, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss for the biography or autobiography, and Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys by Gilbert King for general nonfiction.
The Pulitzer Prizes are awarded for achievements in journalism, literature, and music. They were established in 1917 and are managed by Columbia University. The full list of winners is available here.
Winners receive a certificate and $10,000. Fiction prizewinners usually go on to become bestsellers after the announcement. The prizes will be presented at Columbia University on May 30.
Image credit: The Orphan Master’s Son via Facebook