Andrea Long Chu’s Pulitzer Prize win is trans history in the making

Book critic Andrea Long Chu has become the first trans person to win a coveted Pulitzer Prize… possibly.

The Pulitzer Prize is one of the most coveted awards in the US, awarded annually in various writing categories, including fiction, arts, journalism (photography and cartoons are also journalism-related categories) and letters.

This year’s Pulitzer for criticism was awarded to Chu for work in the New York Magazine that included pieces about 1995’s Bloodchild, by Octavia E Butler, Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit, first published in book form in 1922, A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara, and an analysis of Asian American representation (stemming from Celeste Ng’s Our Missing Hearts, published last year).

The Pulitzer Prize board said the win was for “book reviews that scrutinise authors as well as their works, using multiple cultural lenses to explore some of society’s most fraught topics”.

It’s not entirely clear if Chu is the first trans person to win a Pulitzer, with the critic herself taking to Twitter to ask people to help fact check the possibility.

A spokesperson for the literary awards told PinkNews: “Unfortunately, we do not maintain demographic data and cannot confirm that.”

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Andrea Long Chu is a successful author in her own right. Females was a finalist for the 2019 Lambda Literary Award in transgender non-fiction, and her work has been included in two editions of The Best American book series.

Much of her work explores trans experiences – including her own – such as a 2018 essay in n+1 magazine that focused on her gender transition, and an opinion piece for The New York Times, also published in 2018, written days before her sex reassignment surgery, entitled “My New Vagina Won’t Make Me Happy”.

Chu also profiled model and actress Emily Ratajkowski for New York Times Magazine in 2021.

She is working on a doctorate of comparative literature at New York University, having previously obtained an MA in comparative literature from the university, and a degree in literature at Duke University, in South Carolina.

LGBTQ+ Pulitzer Prize winners

While it’s not clear if Andrea Long Chu is the first trans Pulitzer Prize winner, there have been other LGBTQ+ winners.

Fellow 2023 winners, Carl Phillips, who won for poetry, and co-winner of the music award, Michael Abels, are openly gay

2020 winners Jericho Brown and Michael R. Jackson, who are both gay Black men, won for poetry and drama respectively.

Others include 1999 fiction winner Michael Cunningham, 1983 fiction winner Alice Walker (for her famous novel The Colour Purple), 1948 poetry winner W. H Auden, and 1923 poetry winner Edna St. Vincent Millay.