2017 PEN/JACQUELINE BOGRAD WELD AWARD FOR BIOGRAPHY
Joe Jackson, Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux)
The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography is awarded for excellence in the art of biography. This prize of $5,000 will go to the author of a distinguished work published in the United States during the previous calendar year. The winning title should be a work of exceptional literary, narrative and artistic merit, based on scrupulous research.
From the Judges’ Citation
Black Elk returns the venerated Oglala Lakota visionary to his rightful place in the history of the American West as one of the leading figures who resisted the genocidal oppression of indigenous people. In a vibrant, meticulously researched narrative, Joe Jackson deepens our understanding of the “thunder dreamer” primarily known through Black Elk Speaks, the 1932 transcription of his spiritual teachings compiled by John G. Neihart. Going far beyond producing a stereotypical portrait of a Native American, Jackson probes the complex nature of a man who survived massacres of his tribe, took part at twelve in the Battle of Little Bighorn, toured Europe with Buffalo Bill’s exploitative Wild West Show, then returned to fight at Wounded Knee–later converting to Catholicism because ‘”my children have to live in this world,” yet continuing to perform Lakota spiritual rituals. We commend Joe Jackson for an epic biography that both humanizes and ennobles Black Elk while illuminating the historical context of his story.
Evelyn C. White is the author of the acclaimed biography Alice Walker: A Life (W.W. Norton, 2004). A widely published writer, her other works include Chain Chain Change: For Black Women in Abusive Relationships (Seal Press, 1994). Ms. White is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she was honored for her Master’s thesis on “The Racial Development of Blind Black Children.” She also holds degrees from Harvard University and Wellesley College.
Joyce Johnson’s most recent books are The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac and the memoir Missing Men. Her previous books include Minor Characters, for which she won a 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award, and the novels In the Night Cafe, Bad Connections and Come and Join the Dance. In 1993, she received an NEA for fiction.
A professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Yunte Huang is the bestselling author of Charlie Chan, which won the Edgar Award in 2011 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography. He is also the editor of The Big Red Book of Modern Chinese Literature (W.W. Norton, 2016).
Janet Malcom, Richard Brody, Michael Scammell, Stacy Schiff, Robert K. Massie, Tom Reiss, Linda Leavell, Anna Whitelock, and Nancy Princenthal.
Click here for additional information, including submission guidelines, for the award.