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Authors Guild Calls on the Pulitzer Board to Broaden Literature Prize Criteria to Include All U.S. Residents

Low Library at Columbia University, site of the Pulitzer Prize Awards Ceremony

Update, September 12, 2023: The Authors Guild welcomes the Pulitzer Prize Board’s amendment to the citizenship requirement for its awards in books, drama, and music. The new eligibility language now includes permanent residents and those who have made the United States their home:

Authors and musicians are eligible to enter their work if they are U.S. citizens, permanent residents of the United States, or if the United States has been their longtime primary home.

We applaud the individuals and organizations who thoughtfully and intentionally advocated for this change that celebrates the diversity and nuance of America’s literary culture.

August 21, 2023: The Authors Guild stands in solidarity with the sentiments expressed by the passionate readers, celebrated authors, prize winners, and champions of literature who brought forth an open letter to the Pulitzer Prize Board. While we deeply value the Pulitzer’s tradition of recognizing excellence in literature, we echo the call to realign the prize’s eligibility requirements to better reflect the American literary landscape. We urge the Pulitzer board to reconsider its requirement for citizenship, and to emphasize inclusivity over exclusion.

The requirement for citizenship leaves out many writers who reside in the United States but are not citizens, and whose voices are indelibly intertwined with the fabric of this nation’s story. The beauty of literature is its capacity to transcend boundaries, be they geopolitical, cultural, or otherwise. Drawing from the U.S. copyright law’s definition, a more inclusive approach would consider authors who are “nationals, domiciliaries, or habitual residents of the United States,” rather than strictly citizens. This language, sourced from section 101 of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. Sec. 101, presents a more comprehensive understanding of who genuinely contributes to the literary heritage of the United States.

We applaud the Pulitzer committee for consistently evolving and reimagining its framework to address the nuanced landscape of journalism and literature. Over the years, beginning with the inclusion of online content in 2007, it has expanded its criteria to encompass magazines and broader news categories, which has kept the awards relevant and in touch with exceptional writing. This continuous recalibration underscores the Pulitzer committee’s commitment to recognizing and celebrating transformative literary work that is beloved and recognized by readers around the world.