[caption id="attachment_791231"] Chernow, 62, called the nation's first president "the most famously elusive figure in American history." The Pulitzer committee called his book "a sweeping, authoritative portrait of an iconic leader learning to master his private feelings in order to fulfill his public duties." He said he sought to bring that figure to life, so people today could understand what made Washington such a popular figure in his time. A frequent lecturer who has made several television appearances on historical topics, Chernow has also written biographies of Alexander Hamilton and John D. Rockefeller. He won the National Book Award in 1990 for "The House of Morgan."[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_791232"] The 68-year-old Foner called the award a capstone for his career. He has won multiple honors for work focused on the Lincoln era and Reconstruction. "The Pulitzer has a kind of broader importance and stature suggesting that your book is appreciated by a wider audience, a non-scholarly audience," Foner said. He said it can be intimidating approaching a book on Lincoln, who has been written about so much before. But he said that many Lincoln books either try to put the Civil War president on a pedestal or tear him down, and that he was trying to get a balanced view on a specific topic seen through the lens of that period in history.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_791233"] Norris' work imagines what might have happened to the family that moved out of the house in the fictitious Chicago neighborhood of Clybourne Park, which is where Lorraine Hansberry's Younger clan is headed by the end of her 1959 play "A Raisin in the Sun." Norris' play was cited as "a powerful work whose memorable characters speak in witty and perceptive ways to America's sometimes toxic struggle with race and class consciousness." Norris, a longtime collaborator with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, said he was "deeply honored and totally flabbergasted" by the award.[/caption]
"The Best of It: New and Selected Poems," by Kay Ryan (Grove Press), a body of work spanning 45 years, witty, rebellious and yet tender, a treasure trove of an iconoclastic and joyful mind. Finalists: "The Common Man," by Maurice Manning (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a rich, often poignant collection of poems rooted in a rural Kentucky experiencing change in its culture and landscape; and "Break the Glass," by Jean Valentine (Copper Canyon Press), a collection of imaginative poems in which small details can accrue great power and a reader is never sure where any poem might lead.
[caption id="attachment_791235"] Mukherjee's first book chronicles a 4,000-year history of cancer, charting its treatment and misunderstandings, while also telling the stories of many patients. An oncologist and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University, Mukherjee was moved to write it when a patient asked him to describe just what it was he was fighting. The Pulitzer board called it "an elegant inquiry, at once clinical and personal." Mukherjee said he wanted to "demystify" cancer "so that people don't feel as if they're victimized by stigma and mystery." The Indian-born Mukherjee is married to the MacArthur award-winning artist Sarah Sze, with whom he has two daughters.[/caption]
The 2011 Pulitzer Prizes were announced on Monday. Here is a look at the winners in the Arts category.
[caption id="attachment_791237"] A native of Chicago with novels including "The Invisible Circus," "Look at Me" and "The Keep," the 48-year-old Egan has been highly praised for her searching and unconventional narratives about modern angst and identity. Critics were especially taken with "A Visit From the Goon Squad," with its leaps across time and its experiments with format, notably a long section structured like a PowerPoint presentation. Earlier this year, she won the National Book Critics Circle prize and was a runner-up for the PEN/Faulkner award. The book was partly inspired by Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past" and deals largely with time and the constant onslaught of change, specifically with characters from across the music industry as it moves from analog to digital. "The book is so much about how change is unexpected and always kind of shocking," Egan said. "So there's no question that winning a prize like this feels unpredictable and unfathomable."[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_791238"] "Madame White Snake" made its debut on Feb. 26, 2010, in a performance by the Boston Opera. The opera is based on a Chinese fable about a demon snake that turns itself into a beautiful woman to experience love, only to see an idyllic life with the man of her dreams collapse after her true identity is revealed. Zhou was chosen to write the music by Cerise Lim Jacobs, who wrote the opera's libretto. The 57-year-old Zhou was born in Beijing but has been an American citizen for years. He is known for melding Eastern and Western traditions in music and is a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Conservatory of Music and Dance. Conservatory Dean Peter Witte said it's the school's first Pulitzer in music. "We lift our arms in celebration, and we celebrate what we already knew which is that we have one of the great composition programs in the world," he said.[/caption]