Dear Pulitzer Prizes: It’s Time to Recognize Literature by Noncitizens


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Dear Pulitzer Prizes for Literature:

We, the undersigned, are readers and lovers of literature, undocumented writers, first- and second-generation immigrants, Native and Black writers, past winners and honorees of Pulitzer prizes and major national awards. We are supremely grateful for the decades’ work the Pulitzer has done to uplift books and authors.

From this place of gratitude, and in hopes to speak to your alignment with the past work you have done, we implore you to update your requirements for the Pulitzer Prize to include the work of our peers who through accidents of geography, of violence perpetrated on our lands, and the personal familial reckonings with survival, have come to have or have been born into a mixed or undocumented status.

We were dismayed to learn, through Javier Zamora’s op-ed piece, It’s Time for the Pulitzer Prize for Literature to Accept Noncitizens, that in the categories of Fiction, Biography, Memoir, Poetry, and General Nonfiction, the Pulitzer Prize requires authors to be United States citizens.

Along the way of awarding new work, the Pulitzer has a hand, and an opportunity, in creating a new canon. Works that are honored by a prize and nomination are not only honored momentarily, but they become part of our canonical reading.

We, the undersigned, believe that we have a duty to ask what constitutes the literature of a nation, and in asking this question, we believe it is essential to veer away from the definitions the State provides as to what it thinks constitutes U.S. selfhood.

Whether undocumented writers are writing about the border or not, their voices are quintessentially part of what it means to belong and struggle to belong in this and to this nation.

In an increasingly nativistic world, we look to the Pulitzer to continue to guide us, and we hope you will see your way to changing the prize requirements.

We write to you with dismay and with admiration and hope.

Thank you for considering and listening.


Elmaz Abinader, author of This House My Bones

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Chain Gang All Stars

Rafael Agustín, author of Illegally Yours

Kaveh Akbar, author of Martyr

Daniel Alarcon, author of At Night We Walk in Circles

Kali Fajardo-Anstine, author of Woman of Light

Fatimah Asghar, author of When We Were Sisters

Peter Balakian, Pulitzer Prize winner of Ozone Journal 

Laura van den Berg, author of I Hold a Wolf by the Ears

Jamel Brinkley, author of Witness

Kate Brody, author of Rabbit Hole

Lina Maria Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, author of Don’t Come Back

Alejandra Campoverdi, author of First Gen: A Memoir

Francisco Cantú, author of The Line Becomes a River

Wiley Cash, author of A Land More Kind Than Home

Elaine Castillo, author of America Is Not the Heart and How To Read Now

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, author of Children of the Land

May-lee Chai, author of Useful Phrases for Immigrants: Stories

Jessamine Chan, author of The School for Good Mothers

Vanessa Chan, author of The Storm We Made

Rita Chang-Eppig, author of Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea

Kirstin Chen, author of Counterfeit

Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

Gina Chung, author of Sea Change

Sandra Cisneros, author of Woman Without Shame, House on Mango Street

Bill Clegg

Matthew Cooperman, author of Wonder About The Anonymous Grizzly

Angie Cruz, author of Dominicana

Jill Damatac, author of Dirty Kitchen

Robin Davidson, author of Mrs. Schmetterling

Yohanca Delgado, Stegner Fellow

Jaquira Díaz, author of Ordinary Girls

Firoozeh Dumas, author of Funny in Farsi

Dave Eggers, author of The Every

Patricia Engel, author of The Faraway World

Jonathan Escoffery, author of If I Survive You

Sarah Rose Etter, author of Ripe

Melissa Febos, author of Girlhood

Gwen Florio, author of Silent Hearts

Carolyn Forché, Pulitzer Prize Finalist and author of In the Lateness of the World

Jamie Ford, author of The Many Daughters of Afong Moy

Temim Fruchter, author of City of Laughter

Cristina Garcia, author of Vanishing Maps

Jules Gibbs, author of Snakes and Babies

Eve Gleichman, author of The Very Nice Box

Francisco Goldman, Pulitzer-Prize finalist and author of Monkey Boy

Xochitl Gonzalez, Pulitzer-Prize finalist for Commentary

Reyna Grande, author of The Distance Between Us

Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness

Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author of All the Agents and Saints and Mexican Enough

Myriam Gurba, author of Creep and Mean

Raquel Gutierrez, author of Brown Neon: Essays

Mohsin Hamid, author of Exit West

Maria Hinojosa, author of Once I Was You

Jean Chen Ho, author of Fiona and Jane

Brandon Hobson, author of Where the Dead Sit Talking

Cathy Park Hong, author of Minor Feelings

Hugh Howey, author of Wool, Sand, Beacon 23

Rose Himber Howse, Stegner Fellow

Hua Hsu, Pulitzer-Prize winner and author of Stay True

Vanessa Hua, author of Forbidden City

Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk

Mitchell S. Jackson, Pulitzer-Prize winner in Feature Writing for “Twelve Minutes and a Life.”

Meng Jin, author of Self-Portrait with Ghost

Mat Johnson, author of Invisible Things, Loving Day, and Pym

Saeed Jones, author of Alive at the End of the World 

Janine Joseph, author of Decade of the Brain

Mitchell Kaplan, bookseller, Books & Books

Megan Kamalei Kakimoto, author of Every Drop is a Man’s Nightmare

Lydia Kiesling, author of Mobility

Crystal Hana Kim, author of The Stone Home

Rachel Khong, author of Goodbye, Vitamin

Alexandra Kleeman, author of Something New Under the Sun

Lisa Ko, author of Memory Piece and The Leavers

Jamil Jan Kochai, author of The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories

Jean Kwok, author of Searching for Sylvie Lee and Girl in Translation

R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries

Deborah Landau, author of Soft Targets

Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

Caroline Leavitt, author of Days of Wonder

Ae Hee Lee, author of Asterism

Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of The Evening Hero

Raven Leilani, author of Luster

Jesse Leon, author of I’m Not Broken and No estoy roto

Grace Shuyi Liew, author of Careen

Valeria Luiselli, author of Lost Children Archive

Jami Nakamura Lin, author of The Night Parade

Ruth Madievsky, author of All-Night Pharmacy

Karan Mahajan, author of The Association of Small Bombs

Jessie Ren Marshall

Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body

Sarah Thankam Matthews, author of All This Could be Different

Askold Melnyczuk, author of What is Told

Faith Merino, author of Cormorant Lake

Courtney Milan, author of The Duke Who Didn’t

Isle McElroy, author of People Collide

Chanel Miller, author of Know My Name

Dantiel W. Moniz, author of Milk Blood Heat

Sierra Crane Murdoch, Pulitzer-Prize finalist and author of Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country

Sequoia Nagamatsu, author of How High We Go in the Dark

Ann Napolitano, author of Hello Beautiful

Cleyvis Natera, author of Neruda on the Park

Jenny Odell, author of How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

Tommy Orange, Pulitzer-Prize finalist and author of There There

Imani Perry, author of South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation

Weina Dai Randel, author of Night Angels

Lilliam Rivera, author of Never Look Back

Roger Reeves, author of Best Barbarian

Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Pulitzer-Prize finalist and author of The Man Who Could Move Clouds

Matthew Salesses, author of The Sense of Wonder

Erika Sanchez, author of Crying in the Bathroom

Solmaz Sharif, author of Customs

Safiya Sinclair, author of How to Say Babylon

Leora Skolkin-Smith, author of Edges

Maggie Smith, author of You Could Make This Place Beautiful

Eshani Surya, author of the forthcoming Ravishing

Nafissa Thompson-Spires, author of Heads of the Colored People

Justin Torres, author of We the Animals

E.M. Tran, author of Daughters of the New Year

Tony Tulathimutte, author of Private Citizens

Alejandro Varela, author of The Town of Babylon

Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen

Oscar Villalon, editor of ZYZZYVA

Sarah Viren, author of To Name the Bigger Lie

Qian Julie Wang, author of Beautiful Country: A Memoir of An Undocumented Childhood 

Esmé Weijun Wang, author of The Collected Schizophrenias

Bryan Washington, author of Family Meal

Jemimah Wei, Stegner Fellow

Iris Yamashita, author of City Under One Roof

Lisa Yee, author of Maizy Chen’s Last Chance

Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water, Thrust, Verge

Javier Zamora, author of Solito: A Memoir

Jenny Tinghui Zhang, author of Four Treasures of the Sky

Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks

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Nicole Lambert
Nicole Lambert
Nicole Lamber is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes about arts, entertainment, lifestyle, and home news. Nicole has been a journalist for years and loves to write about what's going on in the world.

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