On July 13, 2020, the Library of Congress announced the awarding of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction to two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author Colson Whitehead. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden offered the following remarks on Whitehead's award:
Colson Whitehead’s work is informed by probing insights into the human condition and empathy for those who struggle with life’s sometimes harrowing vicissitudes. In novels such as ‘The Nickel Boys’ and ‘The Underground Railroad,’ he has expanded the scope of historical events, transforming them into metaphors for today’s world.
Colson Whitehead received the 2020 Prize for American Fiction from the Librarian of Congress during the 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival on September 24, 2020. [View recording of award announcement.]
Since 2008, the Library of Congress has awarded a prize to distinguished writers of fiction. The Library of Congress Lifetime Achievement Award for the Writing of Fiction was created to honor a career dedicated to the literary arts. This award was first presented to Herman Wouk on Sept. 10, 2008. This inaugural award has inspired subsequent Library of Congress fiction awards, given in connection with the Library’s annual National Book Festival.
From 2009 to 2012, the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for fiction was presented to John Grisham, Isabel Allende, Toni Morrison and Philip Roth. Beginning in 2013, the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction has been presented to an author for a body of extraordinary work. Recipients have included Philip Roth, Don DeLillo, E.L. Doctorow, Louise Erdrich, Marilynne Robinson, Denis Johnson, E. Annie Proulx, Richard Ford and Colson Whitehead.
The annual Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction is meant to honor an American literary writer whose body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but also for its originality of thought and imagination. The award seeks to commend strong, unique, enduring voices that, throughout long, consistently accomplished careers, have told us something about the American experience.