This week marks the birthday of a New Orleanian best known as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author: Shirley Ann Grau, who earned the literary honor 50 years ago. Her life story reads like a novel, including the time she hung up on the Pulitzer Prize committee member who called in 1965 to tell her she had won the award, thinking it was a practical joke. The prize-winning novel, The Keepers Of the House, was Grau's third book and dealt with complex racial issues (a white patriarch's fathering of three children with his African-American housekeeper).
Born in New Orleans on July 8, 1929, Grau spent her childhood here and in Alabama. She graduated from Ursuline Academy and Newcomb College. She published her first short story in 1948, then a collection of stories, called The Black Prince and Other Stories, in 1955. Grau's works, which often covered controversial topics, included The Hard Blue Sky (1958), The House On Coliseum Street (1961), The Condor Passes (1971) and Roadwalkers (1994).