Two Black gay men whose work has centered on intersecting themes of LGBTQ and racial identities earned Pulitzer Prizes on May 4.
Jericho Brown landed the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry thanks to his poetry collection “The Tradition,” while Michael R. Jackson’s play “A Strange Loop” earned him a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
“A Strange Loop” is a semi-autobiographical musical about a gay Black writer navigating a lonely, straight, and white world, who has been urged to write a Tyler Perry-like play while surrounded by six Black queer actors. Writing in Gay City News, critic David Kennerley described Jackson’s protagonist as a “marginalized Black playwright in a predominantly white man’s game.”
“Never in my wildest dreams,” Jackson wrote on Twitter in reaction to the news that he won a Pulitzer. “NEVER. IN MY. WILDEST. DREAMS. Thank you to everyone who has supported me on my journey to such an incredible honor. I’m sure I’ll have more to say once I’ve caught my breath and looked at all these text messages and emails but for now, THANK YOU.”
Brown’s “The Tradition” touches on sexuality and race, as well as historical narratives, and in the process Brown encourages readers to think critically for themselves and question whether existing traditions are worth perpetuating.
Speaking about “The Tradition” and his work in a 2018 conversation with Michael Dumanis of Bennington Review, Brown said, “I feel like a person who is hard to understand, given our clichés and stereotypes about people. So I wanted a form that in my head was black and queer and Southern.”
Brown met the Pulitzer news with some humor, writing in a tweet, “I mean… I dunno… you have to admit, ‘Black queer men win the Pulitzer for poetry and drama’ is a pretty funny sentence, right?”
Brown, who teaches at Emory University and lives in Atlanta, has also received recognition for other works, including his first book, “Please,” for which he won the American Book Award. He also won the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry for his work on “The New Testament.”
Jackson, who lives in New York, earned an MFA in Musical Theater Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of Arts. “A Strange Loop” premiered at Manhattan’s Playwrights Horizons last year.
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