By Edward Ngai
Adam Johnson, associate professor of English, has won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his novel “The Orphan Master’s Son,” a story set in North Korea under Kim Jong-Il. The Pulitzer Prizes, which were announced Monday morning, are awarded annually to the best in American arts and journalism.
The fiction prize, which was not awarded last year for the first time since 1977, has previously gone to some of the most indelible stories in the American consciousness — such as Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With The Wind,” Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” and John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes Of Wrath” — and is by far the most prominent award for American novelists.
Johnson becomes the fifth Pulitzer-winning faculty member at Stanford, joining Professor Emeritus of History Carl Degler (1972, History), Director Emeritus of the Knight Journalism Fellowships James Risser (1976 and 1979, National Reporting) and Professors of History Jack Rakove (1997, History) and David Kennedy ’63 (2000, History).
In praising the novel, the Pulitzer jury described “The Orphan Master’s Son” as “an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart.”