Chicago Tribune Announces 2017 Literary Prize

CHICAGO, August 3, 2017 - The Chicago Tribune today announced Marilynne Robinson as the recipient of its prestigious 2017 Literary Prize.

Robinson will receive the award and open the 28th Annual Chicago Humanities Festival on Saturday, October 28. She will appear in conversation with Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens. The recipients of the Heartland Prize for Nonfiction and the Heartland Prize for Fiction, Matthew Desmond and Colson Whitehead, will also appear at the Humanities Fest, receiving their awards on Saturday, November 11. The Heartland awards were announced earlier this year. 

Chicago Tribune Literary Prize

Marilynne Robinson will be honored with the 2017 Chicago Tribune Literary Prize at 11 a.m. Saturday, October 28, at Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road, in Evanston.

One of the most revered writers in America, Robinson transcends genre in her fiction and essays, speaking to the arc of history and the ambiguities of the human connection. 

When Rev. Clementa Pickney died tragically in South Carolina, President Barack Obama quoted his friend Marilynne Robinson in the eulogy, calling on others to find “that reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”  

Through her astonishing powerful use of language, with its special cadences, Robinson eloquently segues between the magisterial and the quotidian. 

Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead, was previously awarded the Tribune’s Heartland Prize. She has also won the National Humanities Medal, the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, and two National Book Critics Circle Awards.

In addition to her fiction, Robinson’s far-ranging, insightful essay collections deal with subjects ranging from the relationship between science and religion, to nuclear pollution and American politics.

“Marilynne Robinson, like many of the winners of the Chicago Tribune Literary Award, has international stature and deep ties to the Midwest,” said Chicago Tribune publisher and editor-in-chief Bruce Dold, who will make introductory remarks at the event on Oct. 28. “She’s a wonderful fiction writer and a brilliant essayist. She challenges every reader to respect the deep mystery of faith. We’re honored to recognize her with this award.” 

The Chicago Tribune Literary Prize was established to honor a great writer whose work has had a great impact on American society. First awarded in 2002, previous recipients of the Literary Prize include the late Arthur Miller, Elie Wiesel, August Wilson and E.L. Doctorow. More recently, the award has gone to Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, David McCullough, Stephen Sondheim, Patti Smith, Salman Rushdie, and last year, Philip Glass. 

Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction and Fiction

Matthew Desmond will be honored with the 2017 Heartland Prize for Nonfiction for Evicted: Power and Profit in the American City at 11 a.m. Saturday, November 11 at the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St.

In Evicted, Desmond followed the lives of eight Milwaukee families to show how mass evictions are less a consequence of poverty than a cause of it. Through his immersive reporting, Desmond transforms our national understanding of poverty and the profoundly devastating process of losing a home, and offers solutions to this widespread problem.

Evicted won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Non-Fiction, and the Andrew Carnegie Medal.

Colson Whitehead will be honored with the 2017 Heartland Prize for Fiction for his novel, The Underground Railroad, at 3 p.m. Saturday, November 11 at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Rubloff Auditorium, 230 S. Columbus Drive. 

Whitehead’s novel uses both realism and allegory to reimagine the Underground Railroad as a train through American history, and recounts the horrors of slavery and the elusive search for freedom that still echoes today.

The Underground Railroad won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, National Book Award and the Carnegie Medal. 

“Evicted and The Underground Railroad reset the conversation about poverty and race. They are written with eloquence that elevates them into great literature,” said Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune literary editor at large. “These are ambitious, brave books that speak to American promise in profoundly resonant ways.”

Chicago Tribune established the Heartland Prizes in 1988 to annually recognize a novel and work of nonfiction that reinforce and perpetuate the values of heartland America. 

The Literary and Heartland Prizes are a part of the Tribune's steadfast support of literacy and the written word.

These awards, along with the Nelson Algren Short Story Award and Young Adult Literary Prize, reflect the Tribune's ongoing commitment to inspiring reading and readers through literary coverage in the Chicago Tribune, on chicagotribune.com, and at the annual Printers Row Lit Fest.

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