April 16, 2018

The New York Times hasn’t traditionally been in the business of publishing comic strips. So staffers weren’t optimistic about their pitch for a reported comic about Syrian refugees.

To their surprise, editors and the art director “embraced the idea.”

And today, “Welcome to the New World” won a Pulitzer for editorial cartooning.

“Welcome to the New World” is a somewhat unusual winner in that it is an ongoing comics strip — a “nonfiction graphic novel,” in writer Jake Halpern’s terms — and not a traditional editorial cartoon. In the past, the Pulitzers gave a special award and citation to Art Spiegelman for Maus., a graphic novel about Spiegelman’s father’s experiences as a Polish Jew in the Holocaust.

The cartoon, a collaboration between Halpern and cartoonist Michael Sloan, tells the true story of a refugee family from Syria and their experiences navigating the United States.

Halpern spends hours with the family every few weeks, inquiring about issues and challenges that he fact-checks with translators, police and others. Sloan then interprets Halpern’s writing into cartoons that are published on Sundays.

Halpern wrote about his experiences with the family on his website.

I wanted to be there on the very day that they arrived in the United States. With the help of a refugee resettlement agency, I found two brothers who were arriving on Election Day with their families. So, on the evening of November 8, instead of going to an election party, I hung out in a parking lot, waiting for the families to arrive. I was part of the team that welcomed them to America.

When they arrived, they were dazed, overwhelmed, ebullient, and also a little sad — because they had to leave several of their family members behind in Jordan. Then, the next day, Donald Trump won the election. In effect, the family landed in one country, and woke up the next morning in another.

See the full entry here.

Here are the other winners of the 2018 Pulitzer Prizes

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Ren LaForme is the Managing Editor of Poynter.org. He was previously Poynter's digital tools reporter, chronicling tools and technology for journalists, and a producer for…
Ren LaForme

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