Laila Lalami Named a Pulitzer Prize Finalist

UCR creative writing professor honored for “The Moor’s Account”

Laila Lalami and book cover

Creative writing professor Laila Lalami is a nominated finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Laila Lalami, associate professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, was named a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for her work of historical fiction, “The Moor’s Account” (Pantheon).

Winners were announced today by the Pulitzer Prize board. Novelist Anthony Doerr won the fiction award for “All the Light We Cannot See.” In addition to Lalami, nominated finalists were Richard Ford, for “Let Me Be Frank with You,” and Joyce Carol Oates, for “Lovely, Dark, Keep.”

“The fact that Laila Lalami is one of only three finalists for this year’s Pulitzer Prize in Fiction — and that she shares the distinction with two of the nation’s most accomplished novelists, Richard Ford and Joyce Carol Oates — goes a long way toward recognizing what she accomplished with ‘The Moor’s Account’,” said Andrew Winer, chair of the UCR Department of Creative Writing. “It’s a remarkable novel, and I’m deeply happy that Laila’s achievement is being acknowledged in this way. All of us in the Department of Creative Writing are absolutely thrilled for her. We’ve worked hard to build a nationally and internationally recognized faculty, and today’s announcement is just one more affirmation of our larger vision, which really is the vision of this fine university.”

“The Moor’s Account” also is a finalist for the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award, which honors excellence in fiction, poetry and nonfiction by writers of African descent. The winner will be announced during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in October. More than 200 entries are submitted each year, according to The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, which sponsors the award.

Lalami’s novel is the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America — a Moroccan slave whose testimony was left out of the official record of the 1527 expedition of Spanish conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez. There were only four survivors.

“The Moor’s Account” has been named a New York Times Notable Book and one of the Wall Street Journal’s Top 10 Books of the Year, one of NPR’s Great Reads of 2014, and is on the list of Kirkus Best Fiction Books of the Year.

Lalami joined the UCR faculty in 2007. She is the author of “Secret Son” and “Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits.”

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