Pulitzer Prize goes to Malcolm X bio but no fiction award

A biography of Malcolm X by Manning Marable has won the Pulitzer Prize for history, but no fiction award has been granted for the first time in 35 years.
Malcolm X, left, is shown March 1, 1964 with heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Historian Manning Marable's Malcolm X biography has won the Pulitzer Prize. (Associated Press)

A biography of Malcolm X by Manning Marable has won the Pulitzer Prize for history, but no fiction award has been granted for the first time in 35 years.

The winners of the 2012 Pulitzer Prizes, awarded for excellence in journalism and arts and letters, were announced Monday in New York. Each award comes with a cash prize of $10,000 US.

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by the late historian Marable won in the history category. It is described as an exploration of the legendary life and provocative views of one of the most significant African-Americans in U.S. history.

Marable devoted more than 20 years to writing the often controversial biography, which alleges the Black Muslim leader had engaged in a homosexual relationship and gives details of his early criminal career. Marable died in April 2011, just before he was nominated for the National Book Award for the biography.

The Pulitzer judges moved the work out of the biography category, where it had been nominated, calling it "a work that separates fact from fiction and blends the heroic and tragic."

An opera that recounts the true story of a spontaneous ceasefire among Scottish, French and German people during the First World War won the Pulitzer for music. Silent Night: Opera in Two Acts, by Kevin Puts with a libretto by Mark Campbell, was hailed for "displaying versatility of style and cutting straight to the heart."

It was commissioned and premiered by the Minnesota Opera in Minneapolis.

This photo by Massoud Hossaini of Agence France-Presse was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography. Tarana Akbari, 12, screams after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb in Kabul on Dec. 6, 2011. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP via the Pulitzer Prize Board/Associated Press)

Other awards granted:

  • Drama:Water by the Spoonful, by Quiara Alegria Hudes, concerns an Iraq War veteran's search for meaning.
  • Biography: George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis.
  • Poetry:Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith.
  • Non-fiction: The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt.

In an unusual move, no award was given for fiction — usually one of the most anticipated prizes.

The nominees were Train Dreams, a novella set in the old West by Denis Johnson; Swamplandia!, Karen Russell's family drama set in an alligator theme park, and The Pale King, a posthumously completed novel by the late David Foster Wallace.

The judges did not explain their decision not to award a fiction prize.

However, the Pulitzer committee provided a list of 10 previous years when there was no fiction winner, including 1917, 1941, 1954 and, most recently, 1977.

The journalism prizes:

  • Public Service: The Philadelphia Inquirer, for a report on violence in schools.
  • Breaking news: The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News, for coverage of a deadly tornado.
  • Investigative reporting: The Associated Press and the Seattle Times, for a report on how vulnerable patients were moved from safer pain-control medication to methadone. 
  • Explanatory reporting: David Kocieniewski of the New York Times, for a report on how wealthy citizens avoid taxes. 
    Sara Ganim, of the Harrisburg, Pa., Patriot-News, was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting, for her stories on the Penn State sex scandal. (Pulitzer Prize Board/Associated Press)
  • Local reporting: Sara Ganim and members of the Patriot-News Staff, Harrisburg, Penn., for uncovering the Penn State sex scandal.
  • National reporting:  David Wood of the Huffington Post, for an examination of challenges facing wounded American soldiers. 
  • International reporting: Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times, for his reporting from East Africa. 
  • Editorial cartooning: Matt Wuerker of Politico.
  • Breaking news photography: Massoud Hossaini of Agence France-Presse, for an image of a girl crying after a bomb blast in Kabul.
  • Feature photography: Craig F. Walker of The Denver Post, for his series about a veteran living with post-traumatic stress.
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