Emotional and societal weight of Pulitzer Project more prominent in August

Published 8:12 am Tuesday, August 27, 2019

As month eight comes to a close, Leona Charleigh Holman said the weight of the Pulitzer Project has been heavier than she could have imagined.

“This is the month where what I am reading is starting to have an effect on me,” Holman said.

When she set out on this year-long journey through 99 Pulitzer winners in literary fiction, she said she expected at least a few of them would be mostly humorous, light-hearted fun.

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While some books have had such fun sprinkled into them, the vast majority of the experience has been a series of hard hits, one after another.

As she has continued, she said she has begun to see the same societal mistakes over and over again across history.

“They have an emotional impact,” she said. “I am almost emotionally drained.”

The experience, she said, has begun to redefine the way she views today’s conflicts, such as racism, violence, immigration, poverty and more, because many of the struggles she sees today are also in the books she has been reading.

“We seem to be making the same mistakes over and over,” Holman said. “What have we really learned form history?”

As those days seemingly become more common, she said she thinks about an interview she read about Mr. Rogers and his TV show.

“His mother taught him to look for the helpers,” Holman said.

She said there are always people working to help support each other to make the world better over time, just like how there are always supporting characters in her books trying to support the main character and helping them find the glimpse of positivity in the stories.

“I am looking for a positive takeaway,” she said. “I am looking for the ways people can change. That is what literary fiction does best.”

In this way, she said she has learned ways she can work to improve her own views on life as a result of the weight of these books.

“I am learning to make fewer judgments about people,” Holman said. “Of course, it is easy to say that.”

This month’s Pulitzer book club meeting will take place this evening at 5:30 at the Elizabethton/Carter County Library, where participants will discuss The Caine Mutiny.