A debut novel by a Dominican-American writer and a biography of American writer Louisa May Alcott are among the winners of this year's Pulitzer Prize.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz was acclaimed by critics for its virtuoso writing and originality. It tells the story of a nerdy would-be science fiction writer and the family history that hangs over him, extending back to the Trujillo years in the Dominican Republic.

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Writer and Syracuse University professor Junot Diaz in his Syracuse, N.Y., apartment last November. He won the Pulitzer fiction prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. ((Jim McNight/Associated Press))

The Pulitzer for biography went to Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father, by John Matteson, which looks at the family history of the author of Little Women.

The Pulitzer committee announced its winners for the U.S.'s most prestigious writing prize on Monday.

In a surprise addition, it added a citation in music for veteran troubadour Bob Dylan for "his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power."

There is a single Pulitzer Prize for music annually — this year it went to The Little Match Girl Passion by David Lang, a choral piece commissioned by Carnegie Hall Corp.

In the past the Pulitzer usually went to a piece of classical music, but the committee has begun actively seeking nominations from composers in other genres, such as jazz and pop, to reflect the great diversity of American music.

Last year it had a citation for jazz great John Coltrane and the Pulitzer went to Ornette Coleman.

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Joshua Bell plays in a subway station while commuters pass. The story was a Washington Post feature cited by the Pulitzer committee. ((Sony Classical/Associated Press))

In journalism, The Washington Post won six awards, including the awards for public service reporting for its exposé on mistreatment of wounded veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, D.C., and the breaking news award for its coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre.

The Post's Jo Becker and Barton Gellman won a Pulitzer for their exploration of Vice-President Dick Cheney's influence on national policy and its international reporter, Steve Fainaru, won for a series on how private security contractors in Iraq operate outside the law.

A story about how great American violinist Joshua Bell played in a subway station while commuters passed unheeding won the Pulitzer for the Post's Gene Weingarten.

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Adrees Latif won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for his Sept. 27, 2007, photo of Japanese video journalist Kenji Nagai after he was fatally shot in Burma. ((Adrees Latif/ Reuters/Associated Press))

In photography, the winner was Adrees Latif of Reuters who shot the photo of a fatally wounded Japanese videographer, sprawled on the pavement during a street demonstration in Burma, also known as Myanmar.

That shot was seen around the world and preceded Burma's crackdown on all visiting journalists and on its own people's communications with the outside world.

Other journalism awards:

  • Investigative Reporting: Walt Bogdanich of the New York Times for stories on toxic ingredients in medicine and other products imported from China and Jake Hooker of the Chicago Tribune for exposing faulty regulation of toys, car seats and cribs.
  • Explanatory Reporting: Amy Harmon of the New York Times for her examination of the ethical issues involved in DNA testing.
  • Local Reporting: David Umhoefer of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for stories on the skirting of tax laws to pad pensions of county employees.
  • Commentary: Steven Pearlstein of The Washington Post for columns on the economy.
  • Criticism: Mark Feeney of The Boston Globe for his writing about the visual arts, from film and photography to painting.
  • Editorial Cartooning: Michael Ramirez of Investor's Business Daily.
  • Feature Photography: Preston Gannaway of the Concord Monitor for her chronicle of a family coping with a parent's terminal illness.
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Playwright Tracy Letts, shown in New York in December 2007, won for his play August: Osage County. ((Jim Cooper/Associated Press))

The Pulitzer for drama went to Tracy Letts for August: Osage County, a dysfunctional family drama set in Oklahoma, now playing on Broadway.

The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 by Saul Friedlander won the non-fiction prize and  What Hath God Wrought: the Transformation of America, 1815-1848 by historian Daniel Walker Howe won in the history category.

Howe's book, which examines U.S. history from the Battle of New Orleans to the end of the war with Mexico, was a finalist for the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award.

Robert Hass, a former U.S. poet laureate, and Philip Shultz each won the prize for poetry for their works Time and Materials and Failure.

The Pulitzer comes with a cash award of $10,000 US.

With files from the Associated Press