A Belfast student’s survey of America’s banned and controversial books has won the 2017 Benjamin Franklin House Literary Prize.
Jasmine McCrory, a post-graduate student at Queen’s University, won the £750 prize, which is awarded annually for the best essay written in response to Benjamin Franklin’s work by an author under the age of 25.
McCrory’s essay praised writers such as JD Salinger and Harper Lee who “battled with slander and vilification, went to war with prejudice and intolerance, and emerged triumphant”. Celebrating controversial authors whose writing had won the Pulitzer Prize – such as novelist Toni Morrison and poet Tyehimba Jess – McCrory drew a link between their work and the ideals of American founding father Franklin, whose image appears on the Pulitzer medal.
A second place prize of £500 went to Skot Wilson, a young playwright working at the Natural History Museum, for his quirky account of the fierce rivalry between two Victorian paleontologists, Richard Owen and Gideon Mantell, both of whom tried to claim credit for the discovery of dinosaurs.
Both essays were written as a response to a line from one of Franklin’s almanacs, published under the pseudonym Poor Richard: “If you would not be forgotten, As soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.”