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Arab American Author Wins Pulitzer Prize in Biography for His Memoir "The Return"

posted on: Apr 12, 2017

BY: Julia Jahanpour/Contributing Writer

Libyan-American author, Hisham Matar, won the Pulitzer Prize in biography this year for The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, his personal memoir. The Pulitzer committee awarded America’s strongest writers in the fields of journalism, literature, and creative writing for its 101st year.

Matar’s book chronicles his journey to discover what became of his father after he was kidnapped 20 years ago. He travels with his wife and mother, revisiting places from their past, while looking for answers to his father’s disappearance. Matar utilizes amazing imagery to paint a visual picture of the areas he travels to throughout Libya.

In the book, Matar also details some of Muammar Gaddafi’s crimes, alleging that his regime was the cause of his father’s capture. The reader feels sympathy and outrage throughout Matar’s struggle with the Libyan government in trying to find answers.

Matar has won other literary awards in the past, including the Man Booker Prize in 2006 for his debut novel. Born in New York City, he moved with his family to Libya when he was three until the age of nine. During that time, his father was accused of working against the government, which led them to flee. They moved to Egypt, with Hisham moving to London to continue his studies. In 1996, they were told that his father had been captured by Egyptian secret police and turned over to the Libyan government. That was the last time they heard about his whereabouts.

Now an accomplished writer, Matar still struggles with what happened over 20 years ago. There isn’t a sign of his career in literature slowing down, however. There may still be more Hisham Matar novels to come.