Essays: Pulitzer Prize Winners in South Dakota

The South Dakota Humanities Council has worked with partners in education and the arts around South Dakota to celebrate the Pulitzer's centennial.

By the end of the 2016, 13 Pulitzer winners will have visited our state, sharing their work and depth of knowledge. At the next event on November 10, the SDHC and the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City hosts popular science writer Jonathan Weiner, 1995 Pulitzer in nonfiction for The Beak Of The Finch: A Story Of Evolution In Our Time.

Authors, scholars, educators and journalists have written about the Pulitzer Prize winners who have presented in South Dakota as part of the SDHC's commemoration of the Pulitzer's centennial in 2016.

Each essay reviews the winner and the value and place of their work in the Pulitzer canon.


Elizabeth Fenn, 2015-History | Augustana University, March 10, Sioux Falls

Pulitzer winner talks about researching history, resilience of the Mandan people: By Marilyn Johnson, author. Elizabeth Fenn's decade of research involved tracking the appearance of the Mandans in explorers’ and fur traders’ journals and in archaeological trenches; biking the Sakakawea Country in North Dakota around the lake that flooded the tribe’s home in the 1950s; and interviewing contemporary Mandans and participating in their tribal ceremonies.


Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin, 2006-biography | Black Hills State University, March 15, Spearfish.

The Question of J. Robert Oppenheimer in the 21st Century: By Kent Meyers, English professor & author,  asks the question of 'What if ... ?' after reviewing the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin.


Robert Cohen, 2015-breaking news photography | University of South Dakota, Sept. 15, Vermillion

Photojournalism and the Pulitzer Prize: Pushing conversations on race beyond St. Louis: By Chuck Baldwin. “That one photo is not indicative of a lot of my work,” photojournalist Robert Cohen said. But that one photo – Edward Crawford wearing an American flag shirt, holding his bag of St. Louis’ Red Hot Riplets, throwing a flaming tear gas canister back at police – has become the iconic image of protests that gripped suburban Ferguson, Mo., for several months in 2014.


Ted Kooser. 2005-poetry | SD Festival of Books, Sept. 22-25, Sioux Falls & Brookings

Ted Kooser: A Poet of Connection: By Christine Stewart-Nuñez. Lines distilled like the tart of lemon. Sweet delights in prose balanced with stunning insight. The literature of Ted Kooser, which includes the 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner, Delights & Shadows, draws in the sun to bring readers to the table of subtle transformation.


Michael Dirda, 1993-criticism | SD Festival of Books, Sept. 22-25, Brookings

Rediscover Literary Joys with Michael Dirda: By Emmeline Elliot, SDSU Briggs Library. Dirda is a literary journalist whose works have appeared in numerous publications, including his weekly book review column for The Washington Post since 1978. He has often been called the “best-read man in America.”


Shirley Christian, 1981-international reporting | Presentation College, Sept. 20, Aberdeen, and SD Festival of Books, Sept. 22-25, Brookings

Shirley Christian and the Choteaus: Before Lewis & Clark: By Brad Tennant, history professor. The history of the Fort Pierre area is an important part of not only South Dakota history, but the history of the American West.


Robert Olen Butler, 1993-fiction | SD Festival of Books, Sept. 22-25, Brookings

Robert Olen Butler's Vietnam: By Steve Sanford, past SDHC board member. Robert Olen Butler’s military service in Vietnam informs much of his most recognized writing.


Jane Smiley, 1992-fiction | SD Festival of Books, Sept. 23, Brookings

As Luck Would Have It: Jane Smiley & the Unexpected Extraordinary: By Lori Walsh, journalist. What are we to make of a book such as Some Luck, that begins with a farmer watching owls emerge from a dead elm tree and ends with a death we are given scant time to mourn?


T.J. Stiles, 2010-biography & 2016-history | SD Festival of Books, Sept. 22-25, Brookings

Before the Battle of Little Big Horn: Custer's Trials: By Donovin Sprague, American Indian scholar. A new biography on General George Armstrong Custer, Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles, focuses on the life and events in Custer’s world, saving the famous battle, the Battle of Little Bighorn – or Greasy Grass, to the epilogue.


John Luther Adams, 2014-composition | South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, Oct. 6-8, Sioux Falls

Prizing the Pulitzer: History, celebration and the outliers: By Frank Oteri, music journalist. Few accolades are so widely recognized and respected that receiving one is almost a guarantee that it will appear in the first paragraph of your biography and usually within the first sentence. But such is the case with The Pulitzer Prize, an annual award recognizing American achievements in journalism as well as literature and musical composition. 


Michael Chabon, 2001-fiction | Black Hills State University, Oct. 5, Spearfish

Exploring Larger Worlds: The Exuberant Realism of Michael Chabon: By Vincent King, BHSU English professor. In fall 1995, Michael Chabon was sitting pretty. He had three books to his credit, each more warmly received than the last. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, published when he was just 24, was one of the most celebrated first novels in recent memory. on the Pulitzer Prize centennial events in South Dakota.