Four Yale affiliates — Yale Law School professor James Forman Jr. LAW ’92, investigative journalist Ronan Farrow LAW ’09, freelance journalist, author and radio producer Jake Halpern ’97 and playwright Martyna Majok DRA ’12 — won Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, earning one of the highest honors bestowed on journalists, authors, musicians and playwrights.
Forman won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction for his book, “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,” which explores the unintended yet significant role prominent black leaders — including mayors, judges and police chiefs — played in the mass incarceration of black Americans in the American criminal justice system by supporting the war on drugs.
“It was unbelievable,” Forman told the News. When his editor called to tell him he had won the award, he said, he could not believe the news and thought the editor must have made a mistake.
In addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize, Forman’s book was also named one of the “10 Best of 2017” by The New York Times.
“I was trying to explore … the complicated ways in which members of the black community and African-American leadership have responded to these twin crises: first a crisis of violence and addiction and drugs, and then later a crisis of overincarceration,” Forman said. “[Winning the Pulitzer] places an additional burden to use [my] increased visibility to this issue to talk about it in a real, authentic way.”
Law School Dean Heather Gerken praised Forman’s work, saying he received “the recognition he deserves” as “an extraordinary voice in one of the country’s most important conversations.”
The New Yorker Magazine and the New York Times shared the public service prize, the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, for reporting led by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of the Times and Farrow of the New Yorker. The Pulitzer’s description described their reporting as “explosive, impactful journalism” that exposed serial powerful and wealthy sexual predators from Silicon Valley to Hollywood and the ivory tower of academia, including over 80 allegations against one of Hollywood’s most influential movie producers, Harvey Weinstein.
The son of acclaimed director Woody Allen, Farrow published investigative pieces detailing allegations of sexual misconduct committed by Weinstein and the producer’s extensive efforts to suppress them.
Farrow, Kantor and Twohey’s work helped spark the #MeToo movement, a global reckoning about sexual abuse of women.
“Grateful for every brave source, for [Twohey and Kantor], and for a tireless @NewYorker team that stood by this story when others tried to bury it,” Farrow tweeted after winning the award. “This moment gets called a reckoning, but we just started telling the truth about old abuses of power. Thanks to all who keep doing so.”
Halpern won the award for editorial cartooning, along with Michael Sloan, for their 20-part comic series based on the experiences of two Syrian brothers and their families who came to the United States on the day of the 2016 presidential election. The piece, “Welcome to the New World,” ran as “op-art” in the New York Times in October and addresses issues faced by many immigrants in the United States, including xenophobia, financial instability and fear of deportation.
Sloan and Halpern’s award marked the first time in history that the Pulitzer Prize Board has given the editorial cartooning award to an electronic comic book. The cartooning prize has typically gone only to a single-panel cartoon format or a brief visual narrative. This year also marks the first time more than a single contributor has received the Pulitzer for the same editorial cartooning category, and Halpern is believed to be the first noncartoonist to win the award.
The Pulitzer’s official description praised Sloan and Halpern’s work as “an emotionally powerfully series … that chronicled the daily struggles of a real-life family of refugees.”
Majok was awarded the prize for drama for her work “Cost of Living.” The play debuted at the Manhattan Theater Club in July 2017 and explores the social interactions among abled and disabled people.
The play, which the Pulitzer praised for its discussion of privilege and human connection, follows two overlapping stories — that of an arrogant man with cerebral palsy and his caregiver and that of a former trucker and his paralyzed ex-wife.
In its review of the play, The New York Times praised Majok’s ability to create empathetic characters that cut across traditional boundaries.
“If you don’t find yourself in someone onstage in ‘Cost of Living,’ you’re not looking,” the review said.
The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded in 1917.
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