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Don DeLillo, 2013 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction Winner.

Lit Bits: Don DeLillo

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This post was written by Katya Soto, an intern in the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress under the mentorship of Guy Lamolinara, researched by Junior Fellow Nikki Dobbin and Literary Initiatives intern Delaney Runge. 

Welcome to another Lit Bits post, a series of book-related blog posts featuring video snippets from your favorite authors, many of whom have appeared at the Library of Congress National Book Festival. 

This clip features award-winning writer Don DeLillo, author of such critically acclaimed novels as “White Noise” and “Underworld.” He also received the first Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction in 2013. The 2023 recipient of the prize is George Saunders. You can see his presentation at the National Book Festival 2023, Aug. 12, in person or via livestream.

Every book and every writer have many ways that their background, ideas, and inspirations  connect to items in the Library of Congress collections. Enjoy the items from our digitized collections that connect with DeLillo’s life and literary work.


During the height of the Great Depression, an Italian couple moved their growing household to America. Don DeLillo’s parents did not know it, but they were paving a path for their son to someday become one of America’s most renowned authors.

New York, New York. Italian family on the steps of a Catholic church in the Bronx after mass on Sunday. Jan, 1943. (Prints and Photographs Division)

Growing up in the Bronx, DeLillo shared a household with his parents and eight siblings and spent most of his adolescent years exploring the outside world. Although his career as a novelist would not begin for two more decades, his reading journey flourished during one of his summer jobs. “It was my [responsibility] to watch over the playground and make sure that [there were no disturbances taking place]. I was supposed to wear a uniform and hang a whistle around my neck. I did none of these things. I sat on a bench reading James Joyce, Hemingway and Faulkner for about two months straight,” DeLillo said.

Italian pushcart market, Arthur & Crescent Avenues, Bronx, 1940. (Prints and Photographs Division)

After graduating college in 1958, DeLillo worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency before releasing his first novel, “Americana,” in 1971. While he has since then written about a range of subjects, he does tend to draw inspiration from the world around him. “It began to occur to me as I worked through the ’70s and into the ’80s that my work to some degree was about living in dangerous times. It never occurred to me that I would actually write a novel about the assassination of the president. Eventually the impact of these events began to seep into the way I thought and the way I write,” he said.

[John F. Kennedy motorcade, Dallas, Texas, Nov. 22, 1963]. Photograph shows a close-up view of President and Mrs. Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally and his wife. (Prints and Photographs Division)
Virgin Islands newspaper covers the assassination of John F. Kennedy. St. Croix avis (Christiansted, St. Croix [V.I.]), November 22, 1963. (Chronicling America)
[Lee Harvey Oswald, full-length portrait, standing, facing front, holding rifle and wearing handgun], created between 1960 and 1963. (Prints and Photographs Division)
Secret Service agents filming the assassination scene by using a car similar to that of President Kennedy's and using Dallas police motorcycles as were on the scene at the time of the assassination.
[Secret Service agents re-enact the assassination of President Kennedy] Dec. 16, 1963 (Prints and Photographs Division)
Tune in to this week’s video to watch Don DeLillo’s receive the 2013 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.

Timestamps: 17:46- 18:47

 Take a look at more Library of Congress resources for more on relevant topics:



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