Women's History Pulitzer Picks

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Women's History Pulitzer Picks

Exceptional fiction from exceptional women

The Pulitzer Prize (Fiction) is a prestigious honor that acknowledges groundbreaking work in the literary world. As Women's History Month is celebrated all throughout the month of March, please consider these award winning titles that are available at DC Public Library. 

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
(1921 Pulitzer Winner)
Edith Wharton was the first ever woman to win a Pulitzer Prize from the previous category of "novel." In this fictional classic,  Newland Archer is engaged to marry the societal standard of a good woman in May Welland. However, Archer is soon introduced to her cousin, Ellen, who intrigues him as she conveys unconventional womanhood in the backdrop of upper class New York. This story was cutting edge for the 1920s as it explored the idea of societal norms and human psychology regarding love, marriage and having feelings toward someone who is not your spouse.  

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
(1983 Pulitzer Winner)
Behind numerous Oscar nominations for the 1985 film lies the storytelling of Alice Walker, whose 1982 novel The Color Purple shows Walker deploying an epistolary writing style to convey the story of Celie -- an uneducated, southern black girl who writes to God because of her physically and sexually abusive father. As a teenager she is forced to marry a widower who subjects her to the exact turmoil that her father did. The reader takes in Celie's evolution into womanhood through letters that reveal hardship, disappointment and personal triumph through the lens of a colored woman navigating the social structure of the 1930s American South. From this story, Alice Walker became the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1983.

Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
(1989 Pulitzer Winner)
Longevity of a marriage is the long road that Breathing Lessons travels down -- literally. Ira and Margaret, married 28 years, drive 90 miles from Baltimore to a small town in Pennsylvania for a funeral that triggers a reflection on their union. The couple can be described as opposites attracting early on; however, this may have been a novel occurrence which has since yielded to long-term reality. Tyler utilizes a road trip to spark reflection which advances the story quite well. This ultimately reveals incompatible people with many differences that might prompt readers to ask: how were they able to stay married for so long? 

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
(2000 Pulitzer Winner)
Jhumpa Lahiri is the first woman of Indian heritage to be selected for a Pulitzer in fiction. In her standout piece, Interpreter of Maladies, Lahiri pens a collection of short stories that profile the lives of first and second generation Indian-Americans who are connected to both Asia and America. Through nine stories, subject matter concerning assimilation, culture shock, marriage, family, friendships and customs are explored as they relate to the Indian-American experience. Stories from this culture are underrepresented in literature, and Lahiri has attempted to fill that void with this award-winning work of cultural significance. 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
(2014 Pulitzer Winner)
Donna Tartt represents the most recent woman to win a Pulitzer in fiction for The Goldfinch. The story immediately begins with an explosion at a New York City museum that kills the narrator's mother -- a shocking start. Theo Decker manages to survive the terrifying event but finds himself as a young man without a mother after having been abandoned by his father long before the tragedy. The marriage between his parents had dissolved years ago; one could say the father taking his mistress to a Bon Jovi concert contributed to that. Tartt writes Theo as vulnerable and searching for something that helps maintain a spiritual connection with his mother. Her untimely death sees The Goldfinch focus heavily on Theo's memories as he engages in questionable behavior without her guidance.