BIO Calls on Pulitzer Board to Create Separate Category for Biography
Responding to the recent trend of awarding the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography to authors of memoirs, Biography International Organization has written to Pulitzer Prize administrator, Mike Pride, asking that the board overseeing the Pulitzer Prizes to create a separate category for biography and a new category for autobiography and memoir. Pride recently left his position but turned over the letter to Dana Canedy, his replacement as administrator.
In a letter signed by BIO Board president Will Swift and Advisory Committee chair Debby Applegate, BIO specifically asked the Pulitzer Prize Board to do the following:
(1) review the recent history of the prize for “Biography or Autobiography”;
(2) consider biographies on their own merits and thus as their own unique prize category;
(3) consolidate autobiography and memoir into a new and distinct category.
TBC first addressed this issue in June, when James McGrath Morris interviewed David Nasaw on the topic. Nasaw, chair of the Pulitzer Prize Biography/Autobiography Committee in 2015, and a two-time finalist for the Biography Pulitzer prize, said, “It was our understanding that a memoir is a piece of a life, a moment of a life, a part of a life, and it is not documented. There is no corroborating material, there are no additional interviews, there are no newspaper articles, and there is no context provided. A memoir is a work—as the title makes clear—of memory. Autobiography and biographies are not works of memory.”
Commenting on BIO’s effort, Swift said, “I am grateful to Cathy Curtis, Steve Weinberg, Jamie Morris, Brian Jones and most of all Debby Applegate for helping me think through the complex issues we present to new Pulitzer administrator Dana Canedy. I look forward to hearing from her and we would be delighted to meet with her and other representatives of the Pulitzer board.”
The entire letter is reprinted here.