Tomas Alexander Asuncion Tizon (October 30, 1959 – March 23, 2017) was a Filipino-American author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.[4] His book Big Little Man, a memoir and cultural history, explores themes related to race, masculinity, and personal identity.[5] Tizon taught at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.[6] His final story, titled "My Family's Slave", was published as the cover story of the June 2017 issue of The Atlantic after his death, sparking significant debate.[7]

Alex Tizon
Alex Tizon University of Oregon 2015 - cropped (2).jpg
BornTomas Alexander Asuncion Tizon
(1959-10-30)October 30, 1959
Manila, Philippines
DiedMarch 23, 2017(2017-03-23) (aged 57)
Eugene, Oregon, U.S.
OccupationAuthor, professor (University of Oregon)
CitizenshipUnited States and Philippines
Alma materUniversity of Oregon
Stanford University
Notable worksBig Little Man
My Family's Slave
Notable awards
  • Anthony J. Lukas Book Prize, 2011[1]
  • International Journalism Fellowship, 2009[2]
  • Knight I Jefferson Fellowship, 1998
  • Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Journalism, 1997[3]
Website (archived from December 2016)


Tizon was born Tomas Alexander Asuncion Tizon in Manila, Philippines on October 30, 1959, the second of five[8] children. He immigrated with his family in 1964, shortly before the first big wave of Asian immigration to the United States in the postwar era. His childhood was marked by financial hardship and frequent long-distance moves. Through twelve grades, he attended eight schools from Honolulu to New York City. He earned degrees from the University of Oregon and Stanford University.[6] In 1997, Tizon won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. Towards the end of his life, he wrote a piece in The Atlantic about Eudocia Tomas Pulido, a Filipina peasant woman who was his family's slave. Pulido helped to raise Tizon's mother, all of her children and Tizon's daughters.[7][9]


As a reporter for The Seattle Times, he and two colleagues won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for a five-part series about fraud and mismanagement in the Federal Indian Housing Program.[10]

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tizon and photographer Alan Berner drove from Seattle to Ground Zero in New York City, chronicling their journey with a multi-part series called "Crossing America – Dispatches From a New Nation," which explored the changes brought about by the attacks.[11] In 2002, he and Berner made another trip to Ground Zero, this time taking a southern route, and produced the series, "Crossing America – One Year Later."[12]

Tizon was Seattle Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times from 2003 to 2008.[6] He was a Knight International Journalism Fellow based in Manila in 2009 and 2010.[13]

Big Little ManEdit

He expanded upon his journalistic themes—exiles, immigrants, social outcasts, people searching for identity or purpose—in a personal way in his book Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self. Tizon told his own story as a first-generation immigrant and an Asian male growing up in the United States to examine cultural mythologies related to race and gender, in particular the Western stereotypes of Asian men and women.[5] The book won the 2011 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize Work-In-Progress Award, sponsored by Columbia University and the Nieman Foundation at Harvard.[14]


Tizon was found dead in his home in Eugene, Oregon, on March 23, 2017. He was 57. His death appeared to be the result of natural causes.[15]

The last story Tizon wrote was an article for The Atlantic titled "My Family's Slave" in which he described how his parents had kept a peasant woman named Eudocia Tomas Pulido as a household slave, even after emigrating to the U.S. from the Philippines. He died the day that The Atlantic's editorial staff decided the article would be featured on the magazine's front cover, but before they could tell him of their decision.[16]


  1. ^ "Archived item" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-12-22. Retrieved 2014-05-18.
  2. ^ "Alex Tizon | ICFJ – International Center for Journalists". ICFJ. Retrieved 2017-05-18.
  3. ^ "The Pulitzer Prizes, 1997 Investigative Reporting". 1997. Retrieved 2017-05-18.
  4. ^ "The 1997 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Investigative Reporting". The Pulitzer Prizes. 1997. Accessed May 12, 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Big Little Man: In Search of my Asian Self". Publishers Weekly. Reviewed on March 10, 2014. Accessed May 12, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c "SOJC professor, Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Tizon dies at 57". University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  7. ^ a b "'Disgusted' Women, Minorities Criticize Viral Atlantic Story 'My Family's Slave'". Observer. 2017-05-16. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  8. ^ Tizon, Alex. "My Family's Slave". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  9. ^ "In 'Lola's Story,' A Journalist Reveals A Family Secret". Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  10. ^ Chuck Taylor. "Times Wins Two Pulitzer Prizes -- Boeing, Tribal Housing Stories Earn Awards" The Seattle Times. April 7, 1997. Accessed May 12, 2014.
  11. ^ Chip Scanlan. "The Power of Serendipity: Alex Tizon’s Journey" Archived 2014-05-19 at the Wayback Machine Poynter. Published July 31, 2002, Updated March 2, 2011. Accessed May 18, 2014.
  12. ^ Alex Tizon. "Crossing America: One Year Later" Archived 2013-12-17 at the Wayback Machine the Seattle Times August 25 – September 15, 2002. Accessed May 18, 2014.
  13. ^ "Alex Tizon: Knight International Journalism Fellow, Philippines" ICFJ 30 Years, International Center for Journalists Advancing Quality Journalism Worldwide. 2013. Accessed May 17, 2014.
  14. ^ Arlene Morgan and Clare Oh. "Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard Announce Winners of the 2011 Lukas Prize Project Awards for Exceptional Works of Nonfiction" Archived 2012-12-22 at the Wayback Machine Columbia Journalism School. Page 2. Accessed May 17, 2014.
  15. ^ "Alex Tizon, Pulitzer Prize winner and Oregon journalism professor, dies at 57". Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  16. ^ "Alex Tizon's posthumous Atlantic cover story is about his family's secret slave", by Eder Campuzano, at The Oregonian; published May 16, 2017; retrieved May 16, 2017