Announced Friday via livestream, Louise Erdrich’s novel The Night Watchman is the 2021 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Pulitzer prize winner The Night Watchman is based on the life of Erdrich’s grandfather, a watchman who fought to protect his people from a 1953 bill aimed at stripping Native Americans of their land and identity.
When news arrives of a resolution seeking the ‘emancipation’ of five tribes through their disbandment, Thomas, a Chippewa Council member and night watchman at a jewel bearing plant, devotes himself to actively opposing the bill that would see his culture dismantled and his people’s land taken from them. At the same time his niece, Patrice, toils to support her mother and brother while searching the dark underbelly of “the Cities” for the sister who hasn’t been seen in months, unprepared for the depravities she will come across in the process.
This is the first Pulitzer for Erdrich, whose previous works have won her a National Book Award as well as a National Book Critics Circle prize. Speaking of The Night Watchman, Pulitzer judges called it “a majestic, polyphonic novel about a community’s efforts to halt the proposed displacement and elimination of several Native American tribes in the 1950’s, rendered with dexterity and imagination.” Originally published in March last year, the book was named Best Book Of 2020 by Amazon, Kirkus, The Washington Post and CBS Sunday Morning. With the New York Times calling it “a magisterial epic that brings Erdrich’s power of witness to every page.”
Other winners include several books that address Black history and underrepresented sectors of society, including David Zucchino’s “Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy”. The full list of winners, as well as the official announcement, can be found on the Pulitzer website.