Joshua Cohen’s “The Netanyahus”, a humorous and rigorous campus novel that is based on the true story about the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Benzion Netanyahu, who was killed in 2012, was an ultra-nationalist medieval historian who taught at several American universities, including Cornell University and the University of Denver. The story of “The Netanyahus” takes place between 1959 and 1960. It centers around a Jewish historian working at a university loosely inspired by Cornell, who is asked to decide whether to hire an Israeli scholar. The title of the novel is “An Account of a Minor, Ultimately Even Negligible Episode In the History of a Very Famous Family.” It has received high praise for its wit and intellectual debate on Zionism and Jewish identity.
“It’s an infuriating and frustrating piece of work. But it’s also absorbing, charming, hilarious, breathtaking, and the most relevant novel I have ever read. It feels like forever.”
Many of Monday’s winners in the arts were exploring race and class in the past and present. Winners were also announced in several journalism categories.
James Ijames’ “Fat Ham,” a play adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, was awarded the Pulitzer for drama. Raven Chacon was the first Native American composer ever to be awarded a Pulitzer in the music category for the “Voiceless Mass” category.
According to Erin I. Kelly, Winfred Rembert was awarded the biography award for “Chasing Me To My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir Of The Jim Crow South.” Rembert, who spent years in prison, and was almost lynched in rural Georgia in the 1960s, passed away last year at 75.
Kelly talked Monday about the book’s unexpected and long backstory in an interview. Kelly is a Tufts University professor of philosophy and came across Rembert’s work while working on another project on criminal justice. Rembert was a New Haven resident. She was so impressed that she decided to document his entire life.
She said that he was charismatic but also down to earth. He had a remarkable grasp of language and a phenomenal visual memory.
Rembert was in poor health, and he died before “Chasing Me to My Grave” was published. However, he did see the edited manuscript.
Kelly stated that Kelly and Kelly felt a strong sense of urgency to finish the book.
Andrea Elliott’s book “Invisible Child”: Poverty, Survival & Hope In An American City, which builds on her New York Times investigative series, about a Brooklyn-based homeless Black girl, was awarded a Pulitzer. Elliott’s book won the Gotham Prize in New York City for outstanding work.
Monday’s history awards included Nicole Eustace’s “Covered with Night: a Story of Murder, Indigenous Justice in Early America” and Ada Ferrer’s “Cuba: An American History”, which trace the centuries-long relationship of the U.S. with its Southern neighbor.
Diane Seuss was awarded the Poetry for Frank: Sonnets Award. Her collection, which was a finalist in the National Book Critics Circle Prize Prize, is based in part on her roots in rural Michigan. It features fierce and lyrical reflections about gender, class, and substance abuse, among other topics.
“My father was very young. My sister and I were raised by my mom. “Young me came to poetry by instinct alone,” Seuss stated Monday. He also cited influences such as Frank O’Hara and Amy Winehouse. “Frank: Sonnets are a collaborative effort with the living and dead,” I say.
Chacon designed “Voiceless Mass” for the pipe organ at The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee. It premiered there in November 2021. Chacon, a Navajo Nation performer and composer, is an installation artist. His Whitney Biennial exhibit of art is inspired by the protests at an oil pipeline.
“This was my first attempt at writing for a church organ, and I wanted to make a statement regarding the space in which this organ is located,” Chacon said. “I wanted to think about the role of the church in the formation of the country, especially as it pertains to Indigenous people.”
His 2020 opera “Sweet Land,” which he co-composed along with Du Yun, received critical praise for its revisionist telling of American history through multiple narratives at once. The Music Critics Association of North America awarded the opera best opera for 2021.
Since 2004, Chacon has mentored hundreds of Native American high school composers to write string quartets through the Native American Composer Apprenticeship Project.
After learning about the Pulitzer win, Chacon said to The Associated Press that he wanted his work to be remembered by Indigenous people through chamber music and classical music.
“I’m happy this work was heard. Chacon stated that overall chamber music is not something that everyone can access. “There is a way for everyone to hear chamber music, and I’m happy to be able to contribute.”
Jonathan Nez, President of the Navajo Nation, congratulated Chacon and said that the artist exemplifies Navajos’ tremendous potential.
Nez stated in a statement that “His award showcases talent, innovation, and creativity of Indigenous peoples and shows our youth that anything is possible through hard work and prayer.”
Chacon received his degrees from the University of New Mexico and the California Institute of the Arts. He is set to begin a residency at the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, Philadelphia in 2022.
His solo works have been displayed at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institute’s American Art Museum, National Museum of the American Indian, and many other venues.
Drama finalists were “Selling Kabul”, by Sylvia Khoury, and “Kristina Waong, Sweatshop Overlord”, by Kristina Woong.
The drama award includes a $15,000 prize and is for “a distinguished play written by an American author.” Ijames, a Philadelphia-based playwright, and Wilma Theatre co-artistic director was the producer of “Fat Ham,” which was streamed last year.