Thursday, June 20, 2024

Mexican author Cristina Rivera Garza wins a 2024 Pulitzer Prize

Crafting a rich, genre-bending account of her sister’s 1990 murder at the hands of an abusive ex-boyfriend has earned Mexican writer Cristina Rivera Garza a 2024 Pulitzer Prize, Columbia University has announced.

Rivera Garza’s “Liliana’s Invincible Summer: A Sister’s Search for Justice” was lauded by the selection committee as a nonfiction work “that mixes memoir, feminist investigative journalism and poetic biography stitched together with a determination born of loss.”

Cover of book "Liliana's Invincible Summer" by Cristina Rivera Garza
Rivera Garza’s book, “Liliana’s Invincible Summer” was also a 2023 National Book Awards finalist. (Hogarth)

The book’s title in Spanish is “El invencible verano de Liliana.”

Best known for novels such as “Nadie me verá llorar” (“No One Will See Me Cry”), Rivera Garza, 59, won the Pulitzer in the category of memoirs or autobiographies — becoming the first Mexican ever to win a Pulitzer for literature. 

Rivera Garza was born in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, and lived in several places in Mexico before moving to the United States in 1989. She studied urban sociology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and completed her PhD in Latin American history from the University of Houston. She is currently the M.D. Anderson Professor in Hispanic Studies and the director of the Creative Writing Program in Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston.

Her previous six novels, three collections of short stories, five poetry books and two nonfiction works have collected numerous awards, including the Roger Caillois Award for Latin American Literature in 2013 and the Anna Seghers Prize in 2005.

She is the only author who has won the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize twice — in 2001 for “Nadie me verá llorar” and in 2009 for her novel “La muerte me da,” a work that hasn’t been translated into English. 

The Sor Juana prize is awarded by the Guadalajara International Book Fair to a work written in Spanish by a female author.

Cristina Rivera Garza onstage displaying certificate of membership after induction into Mexico's Colegio Nacional
In July, Rivera Garza was inducted into the Colegio Nacional, Mexico’s honorary society for academics and intellectuals. (Cuartoscuro)

Rivera Garza has also been awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 2020. In July, she was inducted into Mexico’s Colegio Nacional, the nation’s most prestigious honorary academic organization.  

Her short poetic novel from 2017, “The Iliac Crest,” was included in the recent Mexico News Daily article “Books by Mexican writers to take you out of your comfort zone.” In her novel, Rivera Garza writes about the disappearance of several women and examines gender fluidity and identity.

“Liliana’s Invincible Summer,” which was published in English last year after debuting in Spanish in 2021, recounts in luminous, poetic prose her quest to resolve her sister’s murder 29 years after the fact. 

It simultaneously tells the story of a brilliant and bold young woman who, as Rivera Garza writes, “lacked, like ourselves, the language necessary to identify, denounce and fight against sexist violence and intimate partner terrorism.”

The book has been praised for its honesty, beauty and importance. American novelist and essayist Jonathan Lethem wrote in 2018 that Rivera Garza is “one of Mexico’s greatest living writers.”

“We are just barely beginning to catch up to what she has to offer,” Lethem said.

The Pulitzer Prizes were established by Hungarian-American newspaper publisher and journalist Joseph Pulitzer, who left money to Columbia University after his death in 1911. First awarded in 1917, the prizes honor excellence in journalism, literature, drama and music.

“Liliana’s Invincible Summer” was selected over two other finalists in the memoirs/autobiography category: “The Best Minds: A Story of Friendship, Madness, and the Tragedy of Good Intentions” by Jonathan Rosen and “The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight” by Andrew Leland.

The winner in the poetry category was “Tripas” by Brandon Som, a collection that examines the complexities of the poet’s dual Mexican and Chinese heritages.

A full list of this year’s winners can be found on the Pulitzer Prize website.

Liliana's Invincible Summer: A Virtual Afternoon with Cristina Rivera Garza

Find out more about Cristina Rivera Garza in this online interview with her from 2023 by Oxford professor, author and The New Yorker critic Merve Emre.

With reports from Proceso and La Jornada

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