Books

The Overstory by Richard Powers wins 2019 Pulitzer Prize for fiction

American writer Richard Powers offers "an ingeniously structured narrative" in his 12th novel The Overstory.
The Overstory by Richard Powers is about a group of strangers who have come together under mysterious circumstances to save a forest. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)

The Overstory by American writer Richard Powers has been awarded the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Powers's 12th novel is a sweeping epic that plumbs the depths of the relationship between nature and humanity. The ambitious novel follows nine main characters over the course of half a century in the U.S.

It was a finalist for the 2018 Man Booker Prize.

"[The Overstory is] an ingeniously structured narrative that branches in canopies like the trees at the core of the story whose wonder and connectivity echo those of the humans living amongst them," said the Pulitzer Prize administrator Dana Canedy, as she announced the entire slate of 2019 winners.

For general nonfiction, the Pulitzer Prize went to Amity & Prosperity by Eliza Griswold, the story of an Appalachian family struggling to maintain their footing in middle class America as their home is overtaken by oil fracking and their children fall ill.

"A classic American story, grippingly told," Canedy said of Amity & Prosperity.

For poetry, the Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Be With by Forrest Gander. The American poet draws from his roots as a translator in this collection, pacing back and forth over borders, between cultures and through his mother's fragile consciousness. 

"Be With is a collection of elegies that grapples with sudden loss and the difficulties of expressing grief and yearning for the departed," Canedy described.

For biography, the Pulitzer Prize went to The New Negro by Jeffrey C. Stewart. The book chronicles the life and education of Alain Locke, who is considered to be the father of the Harlem Renaissance. It won the National Book Award in 2018.

"[The New Negro offers] a panoramic view of the personal travails and artistic triumphs of the father of the Harlem Renaissance and the movement he inspired," said Canedy.

For history, the Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Frederick Douglass by David W. Blight. Considered the definitive biography on Douglass, Blight's book takes an in-depth look at the writer and abolitionist's escape from slavery and rise to becoming one of the great orators of his day.

"[Frederick Douglass] is a breathtaking history that demonstrates the scope of Frederick Douglass's influence through the deep research of his writings, his intellectual evolution and his relationships," said Canedy.

The Pulitzer Prize awarded eight prizes in the fields of letters, drama and music and 14 in journalism. Read about more of the 2019 winners here.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.