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American novelist Joshua Cohen wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Netanyahus”

The 2022 Pulitzer prizes include this satirical look at identity politics, focused on the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a crucial time in the Jewish state’s history / BY Kim Honey / May 10th, 2022


American novelist Joshua Cohen has won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family, which was inspired by a little-known story about the late Benzion Netanyahu – a professor of Judaic studies and father of former Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu – being interviewed for a job at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Cohen’s satirical book, described as a mix of fiction and non-fiction, won a slew of accolades after it was published in May 2021, including the National Jewish Book Award, and it was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Joshua Cohen

 

In a 2021 interview with The Times of Israel, Cohen said The Netanyahus was ultimately about identity politics and campus politics, “this idea of who are your people? Who is your tribe? Who are your alliances?”

It is also about how Benzion – an historian who was born in Poland in 1910, raised in Palestine, educated at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and moved to the U.S. in 1940, where he lobbied for the creation of the Jewish state – felt he was a man “born to lead,” but was “left out of history.”

“With Benzion Netanyahu, there was this seething resentment of a person who had ‘deserved more’ and thought that he should have had a role in the early state and he was a man born to lead,” Cohen told The Times. “But, during the most important decade in modern Jewish history, when the State of Israel is being founded and Jews are being slaughtered in Europe, he’s in America.”

The Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction was awarded to Andrea Elliott, a New York Times investigative journalist, who spent eight years following a New York family for Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City. In the book, Elliott expands on her 2013 New York Times series about Dasani, an 11-year-old Black girl who lived in a Brooklyn homeless shelter with her family.

Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artists’ Memoir of the Jim Crow South, an “as-told to” memoir from the late, self-taught Black artist Winfred Rembert, won the Pulitzer for biography, while two books were shared the history prize: Covered With Night by Nicole Eustace, about Indigenous justice in settler-era America, and Cuba: An American History by Ada Ferrer, about Cuba’s fraught relationship with the United States.

The complete list of winners in the journalism, books, drama and music categories, announced on May 9, along with a special citation for Ukraine journalists covering Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion, are available on the Pulitzer website.

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