AP NEWS

DeKalb native Richard Powers wins Pulitzer Prize for fiction book

April 15, 2019

Richard Powers, a 1975 graduate of DeKalb High School, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his book “The Overstory.”

“An ingeniously structured narrative that branches and canopies like the trees at the core of the story whose wonder and connectivity echo those of the humans living amongst them,” the Pulitzer committee wrote on its website Monday afternoon.

“The Overstory” is Powers’ 12th novel, which shows the world through the perspective of trees, and Daily Chronicle contributor Barry Schrader reviewed it last April.

“Thank goodness we have activists and authors like Powers who are a powerful reminder that trees, like humans, have a place on this planet, and we have to be careful stewards,” Schrader wrote.

Powers told Schrader why he wrote the book.

“I was teaching at Stanford and living in California’s Central Peninsula, just between Silicon Valley and the narrow strip of redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains.

“I could feel the incredible tension between the future, on one side – the corporate headquarters of Google, Apple, Intel, HP, Facebook and so many others – and on the other side, the past of the virgin American continent and our vanishing connection to nature and wilderness. One day, hiking in the mountains, I came across a gigantic, ancient redwood, as wide as a house, as tall as a football field was long, and perhaps as old as Jesus.

“And I realized what the ancient forests in the area must have looked like before they were cut to build the culture that would in time become Silicon Valley.

“It occurred to me that our story was dependent on the story of trees in a way that I’d never come across in a novel.

“I quit my job at Stanford and came back east, where the broadleaf trees and forests of my childhood now opened up to me in a way that I had never before felt.

“They had been invisible to me all my life.

“Now I was beginning to see, and I went to work writing a novel where trees were taken just as seriously as people, and indeed became half their story.”

Winners of the Pulitzer Prize receive an award of $15,000.