"Ruined," Lynn Nottage's harrowing tale of survival set against the backdrop of an African civil war, won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for drama on Monday.
Other winners: Elizabeth Strout for fiction ("Olive Kitteridge") and Annette Gordon-Reed, who won the history prize for "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family," which won the National Book Award last fall.
The general nonfiction award went to "Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II" by Douglas A. Blackmon.
The biography Pulitzer was awarded to Jon Meacham's "American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House."
Steve Reich took the music prize for "Double Sextet," while celebrated poet W.S. Merwin won for poetry with "The Shadow of Sirius."
Inspired by Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage and Her Children," Nottage's play focuses on the suffering of women, particularly the inhabitants of a Congolese brothel owned by an earth mother named Mama Nadi.
While the political is never far from the surface, it is the personal that mostly concerns "Ruined," particularly in its depictions of the resourceful Mama Nadi and the young women who work for her.
The drama currently is on view at off-Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club and is a co-production with Chicago's Goodman Theatre, where the play had its world premiere late last year.
Strout presents an emotional portrait of coastal Maine through a collection of 13 short stories in "Olive Kitteridge." Gordon-Reed's epic work is centered on the Hemingses, a black family linked to Thomas Jefferson but ignored by history until just a couple years ago.