The Pulitzer Prize winners for 2009 were announced this week:
Fiction: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout -- a collection of 13 short stories set in small-town Maine that packs a cumulative emotional wallop, bound together by polished prose and by Olive, the title character, blunt, flawed and fascinating.
Drama: Ruined by Lynn Nottage -- a searing drama set in chaotic Congo that compels audiences to face the horror of wartime rape and brutality while still finding affirmation of life and hope amid hopelessness.
History: The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed -- a painstaking exploration of a sprawling multi-generation slave family that casts provocative new light on the relationship between Sally Hemings and her master, Thomas Jefferson.
Biography: American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham -- an unflinching portrait of a not always admirable democrat but a pivotal president, written with an agile prose that brings the Jackson saga to life.
Poetry: The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin -- a collection of luminous, often tender poems that focus on the profound power of memory.
General Nonfiction: Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon -- a precise and eloquent work that examines a deliberate system of racial suppression and that rescues a multitude of atrocities from virtual obscurity.