I was teaching an undergraduate fiction workshop yesterday when I received a text from my friend Mark congratulating me. “On what?” I asked. I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I found out that The Moor’s Account was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, along with Richard Ford’s Let Me Be Frank With You and Joyce Carol Oates’s Lovely, Dark, Deep. The winner was Anthony Doerr for All The Light We Cannot See. In shock, I blurted out the news to my students, who erupted in applause and cheers.
I’m thrilled and grateful for this recognition, and I am especially honored to be included in such fine company. When I came across the story of Mustafa/Estebanico six years ago, I immediately knew it had to be told in the form of a novel, but I worried that I did not have the talent to do it and that, even if I did somehow pull it off, no one would care about it. But this character simply wouldn’t let go of me, so I took a leap. I wrote the book I wanted to write, with no expectation of it ever finding a readership or garnering any attention. But, oh, it’s so nice when that happens! My heartfelt thanks to the Pulitzer Prize fiction judges.
Last week, The Moor’s Account was also named a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in fiction, a national prize for published writers of African descent. The other nominees are Chris Abani’s The Secret History of Las Vegas, Ishmael Beah’s Radiance of Tomorrow, Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State, Nadifa Mohamed’s The Orchard of Lost Souls, and Tiphanie Yanique’s Land of Love and Drowning. The winner will be announced at a ceremony in Washington, DC, in October.