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Colson Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad," his celebrated novel about an escaped slave that combined liberating imagination and brutal reality, has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Monday's announcement confirmed the book as the literary event of 2016 – an Oprah Winfrey book club pick and critical favorite that last fall received the National Book Award, the first time in more than 20 years that the same work won the Pulitzer and National Book Award for fiction.Known for such explorations of American myth and history as "John Henry Days," Whitehead conceived his novel with what he calls a "goofy idea": Take the so-called Underground Railroad of history, the network of escape routes to freedom, and make it an actual train. Other winners announced Monday also touched upon race and class, in the present and in the past.The history winner, Heather Ann Thompson's "Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy," examines the events that unfolded starting Sept. 9, 1971, when nearly 1,300 prisoners took over the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York to protest years of mistreatment.
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