Pulitzer Project finds new focus as project approaches halfway point

Published 8:15 am Friday, May 24, 2019

Leona Charleigh Holman is approaching the halfway point in her year-long Pulitzer Project, and though she has fallen slightly behind, she said she has found a different kind of enjoyment out of reading Pulitzer winners than when she first started.

“Something has switched from just reading to getting absorbed into the culture of the book,” Holman said.

Holman said part of the reason she is now roughly four books behind is because of her fascination with researching the culture, time period and mindset of the author behind the award-winning books she has been reading.

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“I read the book, and then I look up all the research behind the book,” she said.

For example, Holman recently finished the book Killer Angels, which featured the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. Living in the South, where there are many Civil War battlefields to showcase the war’s history, she said the book provided a different perspective.

Another example is Good Earth, a book the author used to look at Chinese culture.

“She was an American author writing about Chinese culture,” Holman said. “How did she do that?”

Turns out, she said, the writer was actually a missionary’s daughter who grew up in China, hence her detailed knowledge of the culture there.

Holman said the variety in cultures in the various Pulitzer books has been a fascinating experience.

“I was taken aback,” she said. “I thought Native Americans would not have much of a voice.”

Instead, as of this week, at least two books have had a Native American theme and/or focus.

“We have all kinds of authors,” she said. “Everything is represented. […] I am amazed by how much history I have experienced by reading these books.”

The next Pulitzer meeting is Tuesday, May 28, at the Elizabethton/Carter County Library, and one of the topics she said she wants to discuss, in addition to Killer Angels, is how little commercial success many of these books achieved, before or after receiving a Pulitzer.

“Many of them are unknown until they come out in a film format,” she said.

Holman said those looking for more information about the books she is reading at the moment may visit her website at www.lcholman.com/the-pulitzer-project/.