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Play About Sharecropper and Novel About Immigrants Win

April 13, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ A play about a sharecropper whose grandfather was a slave, a novel about Cuban musicians in New York and poetry by a Yugoslavian immigrant won Pulitzer Prizes.

The 21 prizewinners Thursday also included two California newspapers, for their coverage of the Oct. 17 earthquake, and three newspapers awarded for reporting health threats - in a city’s water supply, in a dietary supplement and in blood supplies.

The seven arts and 14 journalism prizes awarded by Columbia University carried $3,000 prizes, except for the public service award of a gold medal.

Oscar Hijuelos won the fiction award for ″The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love,″ about musician brothers from Havana whose claim to fame is performing on an episode of ″I Love Lucy.″

Hijuelos, the son of Cuban immigrants, said he hoped the prize would encourage publishers to carry more works by ethnic minorities.

The drama prize went to August Wilson for ″The Piano Lesson,″ about a sharecropper willing to sell the family piano to buy land his grandfather worked on as a slave. Wilson, author of a series of plays about black life in America, won a Pulitzer in 1987 for ″Fences.″

Charles Simic, who left Yugoslavia as a teen-ager, won for his book of humorous prose poems, ″The World Doesn’t End.″

Among the book’s images is this: ″The dead man steps down from the scaffold. He holds his bloody head under his arm ... he takes a seat at one of the tables and orders two beers, one for him and one for his head.″

The general non-fiction award went to ″And Their Children After Them,″ by Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson. The book revisits the children of poor Alabamans profiled 50 years ago by James Agee and Walker Evans in their classic book, ″Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.″

The other arts Pulitzers went to ″Machiavelli in Hell″ by Sebastian de Grazia, for biography; ″Duplicates,″ a concerto for two pianos and orchestra by Mel Powell, for music; and ″In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines,″ by Stanley Karnow, for history.

Jim Murray, the Los Angeles Times sports columnist, became the fourth sportswriter to win the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

The Washington (N.C.) Daily News won for an expose of carcinogens in the city water.

The Philadelphia Inquirer won for a probe that found the blood industry is little regulated. It was the Inquirer’s 17th Pulitzer, its 11th in the past six years, and the second for reporter Gilbert M. Gaul, who won an investigative reporting Pulitzer in 1979.

Tamar Stieber’s reports for the Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal on the link between the dietary supplement L-tryptophan and a rare blood disorder won a Pulitzer for specialized reporting and led to a national recall of the product.

The general news reporting prize went to the staff of the San Jose Mercury News, which published with the aid of emergency generators after the San Francisco Bay Area earthquake. The spot news photography prize went to The Tribune of Oakland, Calif., for pictures of the quake’s devastation.

David C. Turnley of the Detroit Free Press won the feature photography prize for a portfolio called ″The Year in Revolution,″ including images from China, Czechoslovakia, Romania and the Berlin Wall.

Lou Kilzer and Chris Ison of the Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul won the investigative reporting prize for exposing the St. Paul fire chief’s alleged ties to people who profited from arson.

Four reporters for The Seattle Times - Ross Anderson, Bill Dietrich, Mary Ann Gwinn and Eric Nalder - received the national reporting award for coverage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Announcement of the awards set champagne corks popping in newsrooms around the country.

″We haven’t had this much excitement in this town since the Union cavalry and the Confederate cavalry chased each other up Main Street in 1862,″ said Bill Coughlin, the Washington Daily News’s executive editor.

″Great Wall wine″ was all they could get in Beijing to celebrate the international reporting award for Nicholas D. Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn of The New York Times. They won for coverage of the pro-democracy movement in China and its suppression.

For his feature writing award, Dave Curtin of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph profiled a family that was struggling to recover from an explosion that devastated their home and left them severely burned.

Other winners included:

-David A. Vise and Steve Coll of The Washington Post, for explanatory journalism, for their reports about the Securities and Exchange Commission.

-Allan Temko of the San Francisco Chronicle, for criticism. ″Did I win?″ asked the architectural critic. ″How extraordinary. I’ve always been a bridesmaid.″

-Thomas J. Hylton of The Mercury of Pottstown, Pa., for editorial writing about a local bond issue for the preservation of farmland and other open space.

-Tom Toles of The Buffalo News for editorial cartoons.

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