Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead (born November 6, 1969) is an American novelist. He is the author of six novels, including his debut work, the 1999 novel The Intuitionist, and The Underground Railroad (2016), for which he won the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction and the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.[1] He has also published two books of non-fiction. In 2002, he received a MacArthur Fellowship ("Genius Grant").

Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead at the 2009 Texas Book Festival.
Colson Whitehead at the 2009 Texas Book Festival.
BornNovember 6, 1969 (age 49)
New York City, New York, U.S.
EducationHarvard University
GenreFiction, non-fiction
Notable worksThe Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Zone One, The Underground Railroad
Notable awardsNational Book Award for Fiction, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Early life

Whitehead was born in New York City on November 6, 1969, and grew up in Manhattan. He attended Trinity School in Manhattan. Whitehead graduated from Harvard University in 1991; in college he became friends with poet Kevin Young.[2]

Early in his career, he lived in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.[3]


After leaving college, Whitehead wrote for The Village Voice.[4][5] While working at the Voice, he began drafting his first novels.

Whitehead has since produced seven book-length works—six novels and a meditation on life in Manhattan in the style of E.B. White's famous essay Here Is New York. The novels are 1999's The Intuitionist, 2001's John Henry Days, 2003's The Colossus of New York, 2006's Apex Hides the Hurt, 2009's Sag Harbor, 2011's Zone One, a New York Times Bestseller; and 2016's The Underground Railroad, which earned a National Book Award for Fiction.[6][7] Esquire magazine named The Intuitionist the best first novel of the year, and GQ called it one of the "novels of the millennium."[8] Novelist John Updike, reviewing The Intuitionist in The New Yorker, called Whitehead "ambitious," "scintillating," and "strikingly original," adding, "The young African-American writer to watch may well be a thirty-one-year-old Harvard graduate with the vivid name of Colson Whitehead."[8]

Whitehead's The Intuitionist was nominated as the Common Novel at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The Common Novel nomination was part of a long-time tradition at the Institute that included authors like Maya Angelou, Andre Dubus III, William Joseph Kennedy, and Anthony Swofford.

Whitehead's non-fiction, essays and reviews have appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Granta, and Harper's.[9]

Colson Whitehead @ BBF (6161074114)
Whitehead at the 2011 Brooklyn Book Festival

His non-fiction account of the 2011 World Series of Poker The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky & Death was published by Doubleday in 2014.

He has taught at Princeton University, New York University, the University of Houston, Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, Wesleyan University, and been a Writer-in-Residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond, and the University of Wyoming.

In the spring of 2015, he joined The New York Times Magazine to write a column on language.

His 2016 novel, The Underground Railroad, was a selection of Oprah's Book Club 2.0, and was also chosen by President Barack Obama as one of five books on his summer vacation reading list.[10][11] In January 2017 it was awarded the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction at the American Library Association Mid-Winter conference in Atlanta, GA.[12] Colson was also honored with the 2017 Hurston/Wright Award for fiction presented by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation.[13]


For The Intuitionist

For John Henry Days

For Apex Hides the Hurt

For Sag Harbor

For Zone One

For The Underground Railroad





  • "Lost and Found". The New York Times Magazine. November 11, 2001.
  • "A Psychotronic Childhood". The New Yorker. June 4, 2012.
  • "Hard Times in the Uncanny Valley". Grantland. ESPN. August 24, 2012.
  • "Occasional Dispatches from the Republic of Anhedonia". Grantland. ESPN. May 19, 2013.

Short stories


  1. ^ 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winners and Nominees, The Pulitzer Prizes, 2017, retrieved April 10, 2017
  2. ^ Purcell, Andrew (May 20, 2017). "Colson Whitehead: 'The truth of things, not the facts'". Western Advocate. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  3. ^ "Don't You Be My Neighbor". Retrieved February 19, 2019.
  4. ^ "Colson Whitehead". Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  5. ^ Nancy Smith (July 17, 2012). "Interview with Colson Whitehead". The Rumpus. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  6. ^ a b "The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead, 2016 National Book Award Winner, Fiction". Archived from the original on December 8, 2017. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  7. ^ "Colson Whitehead". Archived from the original on June 10, 2007. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  8. ^ a b John Updike, "Tote That Ephemera," The New Yorker, May 7, 2001.
  9. ^ a b "Colson Whitehead to be awarded Longwood's Dos Passos Prize for Literature". Longwood University. February 25, 2013. Archived from the original on May 12, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  10. ^ Allie Malloy, "Obama summer reading list: 'The Girl on the Train'", CNN, August 12, 2016.
  11. ^ Sarah Begley, "Here’s What President Obama Is Reading This Summer", Time magazine, August 12, 2016.
  12. ^ French, Agatha. "American Library Assn.'s 2017 award winners include 'March: Book Three' by Rep. John Lewis". Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  13. ^ "Colson Whitehead Honored Once Again for His Novel The Underground Railroad", The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, October 25, 2017.
  14. ^ "ALA Midwinter 2017: Colson Whitehead, Matthew Desmond Win ALA Carnegie Medals". Retrieved January 26, 2017.

Further reading

  • Fain, Kimberly. Colson Whitehead: The Postracial Voice of Contemporary Literature. Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
  • Maus, Derek C. Understanding Colson Whitehead. University of South Carolina Press, 2014.

External links

Alma Books

Alma Books is a publishing house based in Richmond, London, founded in 2005 by Alessandro Gallenzi and Elisabetta Minervini, the founders of Hesperus Press. It publishes mainly fiction, both by authors from the English-speaking world and in translation from languages such as French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese.It has published books by authors such as Anthony McCarten, Robert M. Pirsig, William T. Vollmann, Colson Whitehead, Jane Hawking, Tibor Fischer, Tom McCarthy, Carmen Posadas, Yasutaka Tsutsui, Alberto Manguel, Peter Benson, Rosie Alison and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, among others. In 2012 Alma published Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld which won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.In 2007 Alma Books launched Oneworld Classics, a joint venture with the Oxford-based publishing house Oneworld Publications, which published newly commissioned classics titles and acquired Calder Publications. In 2012, Alma Books acquired full stakes in Oneworld Classics, which was renamed Alma Classics. In the same year Alma Books received the Premio Nazionale per la Traduzione by the Italian Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali for their contribution to the promotion of Italian culture abroad. Since the award's inauguration in 1989, it had never before been awarded to a British publisher.

In 2013 Alma Books won the Bookseller Independent Publisher of the Year Industry Award.

Apex Hides the Hurt

Apex Hides the Hurt is a 2006 novel by American author Colson Whitehead.

The novel follows an unnamed nomenclature consultant who specializes in creating memorable names for new consumer products. He is asked to visit the town of Winthrop, which, rather conveniently for the nomenclature consultant, is considering changing its name. During his visit, the main character is introduced to several citizens attempting to persuade him in favor of their preferred name for the town.

The novel has received mostly positive reviews from critics, with few negative comments. In a positive review for American magazine Entertainment Weekly, Jennifer Reese called the book "a blurry satire of American commercialism", adding, "it may not mark the apex of Colson Whitehead's career, but it brims with the author's spiky humor and intelligence." The book was included among The New York Times 100 Most Notable Books of the Year for 2006.

Books Are My Bag Readers' Awards

The Books Are My Bag Reader's Awards are annual literary awards presented by the Booksellers Association in the UK and Ireland since 2016. They are sponsored by National Book Tokens.

Elise Blackwell

Elise Blackwell (born July 18, 1964) is an American novelist, born in Austin, Texas and raised primarily in southern Louisiana. She studied creative writing at Louisiana State University before entering the MFA Program of the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of five novels: Hunger, The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish, Grub, An Unfinished Score, and The Lower Quarter released in October 20`5. Blackwell has also written short fiction and cultural criticism, that has appeared in such publications as Topic, Seed, Witness, Global City Review, and Quick Fiction. She is on the creative writing faculty of the University of South Carolina.

Blackwell is the host and curator for The Open Book Series, a yearly event sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina. It is a literary series, public course, and community read all in one. Writers who have visited include Ian McEwan, Colson Whitehead, John Banville, Celeste Ng, Teju Cole, Jennifer Egan, David Mitchell, Chang Rae Lee, and Marilynne Robinson. All events are free and open to the public. The 2019 lineup consists of four writers: Michael Crummey, Timothy Donnelly, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton and Elizabeth Strout.

Fiction Writers Review

Fiction Writers Review is an online literary journal that publishes reviews of new fiction, interviews with fiction writers, and essays on craft and the writing life. The journal was founded in 2008 and incorporated as a non-profit organization in Michigan in 2011. In 2012 it received 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

In addition to publishing a literary journal, Fiction Writers Review also hosts an annual literary symposium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, entitled “The State of the Book: A Celebration of Michigan Writers and Writing.” The 2012 inaugural event was funded in part by a Major Grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, as well as support from the University of Michigan’s Department of English Language & Literature, the Zell Visiting Writing Series, and The Institute for Humanities. Event partners include fellow literary non-profit organizations 826michigan, Dzanc Books, InsideOut Literary Arts Project, The National Writers Series, and The Neutral Zone. Programming highlights include the release of the 2012 Best American Nonrequired Reading anthology by author and publisher Dave Eggers, a keynote conversation between National Book Award nominee Charles Baxter and Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Philip Levine, and a lecture by poet and activist Carolyn Forche. Participating authors have included Ellen Airgood, Natalie Bakopoulos, Matt Bell, Terry Blackhawk, Benjamin Busch, Jonathan Cohen, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Jerry Dennis, Ariel Djanikian, Bill Harris, Francine Harris, Donovan Hohn, Jay Baron Nicorvo, Thisbe Nissen, Michael Paterniti, Eileen Pollack, Doug Stanton, and Keith Taylor.

Fiction Writers Review also organizes and sponsors an annual write-a-thon, “The Great Write Off,” whose goal is to raise both public awareness of and funding for the charitable work of these organizations.Notable publications include Charles Baxter’s essay “Owl Criticism,” which was originally presented as part of the 2011 AWP Writers Conference Panel “The Good Review: Criticism in the Age of Book Blogs and” and has been subsequently cited in such publications as American Fiction Notes and elsewhere; Christine Hartzler’s essay “Games Are Not About Monsters,” which was anthologized in Best of the Web 2010 and collected in Creative Composition, edited by Pollack, Chamberlin, and Bakopoulos; and Michael Rudin’s “Writing the Great American Novel Video Game,” which was also collected in Creative Composition.

Editors: Jeremiah Chamberlin, Michael Rudin, Rebecca Scherm, Brandon Bye, Leah Falk, Steven Wingate, James Pinto

Interview subjects have included: Megan Abbott, Steve Almond, Russell Banks, Richard Bausch, Matt Bell, Pinckney Benedict, Tom Bissell, Robert Olen Butler, Lydia Davis, Richard Ford, Ben Fountain, Cristina Garcia, Skip Horack, Laura Kasischke, J. Robert Lennon, Jonathan Lethem, Margot Livesey, Bruce Machart, Hisham Mater, Elizabeth McCracken, Ana Menendez, Peter Orner, Daniel Orozco, Benjamin Percy, Steven Schwartz, Jim Shepard, Manil Suri, Wells Tower, Laura van den Berg, Colson Whitehead, Charles Yu, and many others.

Jeffrey Rotter

Jeffrey Rotter is a writer. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Spin magazine, ESPN, McSweeney's, The Literary Review and The New York Observer. In 2006 he completed his MFA in fiction at Hunter College, where he studied under Peter Carey, Colson Whitehead, Colum McCann, and Andrew Sean Greer. At Hunter he was awarded a Hertog Fellowship to perform research for Jennifer Egan. A longtime Brooklyn resident, he lives with his wife and their small boy, Felix.

His first novel, The Unknown Knowns, was published by Scribner on March 17, 2009. The book is about a guy called Jim Rath who dreams of building a museum based on The Aquatic Ape Theory of human evolution while being chased by an agent from The Department of Homeland Security. Jim thinks the agent is an emissary from a lost aquatic race called Nautikons; the agent thinks Jim is a terrorist. They are both wrong.

Douglas Coupland calls The Unknown Knowns a "wonderful book - smart, tight, and funny - Confederacy of Dunces meets Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin." And Booklist has called the novel a "Vonnegut-esque tale of delusion, violence and homeland security … a hyperintelligent, surrealistic tale with a wackiness factor worthy of Kilgore Trout."His second novel, The Only Words That Are Worth Remembering, will be out in 2015 from Metropolitan Books.

John Henry Days

John Henry Days is a 2001 novel by American author Colson Whitehead. This is his second full-size work.

Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo is a 2017 experimental novel by American writer George Saunders. It is Saunders's first full-length novel and was the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller for the week of March 5, 2017. Saunders is better known for his short stories, reporting, and occasional essays.The novel takes place during and after the death of Abraham Lincoln's son William "Willie" Wallace Lincoln and deals with the president's grief at his loss. The bulk of the novel, which takes place over the course of a single evening, is set in the bardo—an intermediate space between life and rebirth.

Lincoln in the Bardo received critical acclaim, and won the 2017 Man Booker Prize. Time magazine listed it as one of its top ten novels of 2017.

Oprah's Book Club 2.0

Oprah's Book Club 2.0 is a book club founded June 1, 2012, by Oprah Winfrey in a joint project between OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network and O: The Oprah Magazine. The club is a re-launch of the original Oprah's Book Club, which ran for 15 years and ended in 2011, but as the "2.0" name suggests, digital media is the new focus. It incorporates the use of various social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter) and e-readers that allow for the quoting and uploading of passages and notes for discussion, among other features.

PEN/Jean Stein Book Award

PEN/Jean Stein Book Award is awarded by the PEN American Center to honor a "a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact". With an award of $75,000 it is one of the richest prizes given by the PEN American Center. It was first award in 2017.

The award is one of many PEN awards sponsored by International PEN affiliates in over 145 PEN centers around the world. The PEN American Center awards have been characterized as being among the "major" American literary prizes.

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is one of the seven American Pulitzer Prizes that are annually awarded for Letters, Drama, and Music. It recognizes distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life, published during the preceding calendar year. As the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, it was one of the original Pulitzers; the program was inaugurated in 1917 with seven prizes, four of which were awarded that year. (No Novel prize was awarded in 1917; the first was awarded in 1918.)Finalists have been announced since 1980, ordinarily a total of three.

Richard Ford

Richard Ford (born February 16, 1944) is an American novelist and short story writer. His best-known works are the novel The Sportswriter and its sequels, Independence Day, The Lay of the Land and Let Me Be Frank With You, and the short story collection Rock Springs, which contains several widely anthologized stories. His novel Wildlife was adapted into a 2018 film of the same name.

Sag Harbor (novel)

Sag Harbor is a 2009 novel by award-winning author Colson Whitehead.

Sag Harbor takes place in Sag Harbor, a small village in the exclusive Hamptons on the east end of New York's Long Island. The novel's main character is Benji, an African American teenager spending the summer in a black enclave of his predominately white and close-knit town along with his brother Reggie. Set in 1985, the novel touches on themes of race, class, and commercial culture.

The Colossus of New York (book)

The Colossus of New York is a 2003 book about the history of New York City by Colson Whitehead.

The Echo Maker

The Echo Maker is a 2006 novel by American writer Richard Powers. It won the National Book Award for Fiction

and was a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist.

The Intuitionist

The Intuitionist is a 1999 novel by Colson Whitehead. It falls broadly into speculative fiction.

The Intuitionist takes place in a city (implicitly, New York) full of skyscrapers and other buildings requiring vertical transportation in the form of elevators. The time, never identified explicitly, is one when black people are called "colored" and integration is a current topic. The protagonist is Lila Mae Watson, an elevator inspector of the "Intuitionist" school. The Intuitionists practice an inspecting method by which they ride in an elevator and intuit the state of the elevator and its related systems. The competing school, the "Empiricists", insists upon traditional instrument-based verification of the condition of the elevator. Watson is the second black inspector and the first black female inspector in the city.

The Underground Railroad (TV series)

The Underground Railroad is an upcoming American alternate history drama web television limited series directed by Barry Jenkins. The series is set to premiere on Amazon Video.

The Underground Railroad (novel)

The Underground Railroad, published in 2016, is the sixth novel by American author Colson Whitehead.

The alternate history novel tells the story of Cora and Caesar, two slaves in the southeastern United States during the 19th century, who make a bid for freedom from their Georgia plantations by following the Underground Railroad, which the novel depicts as primarily a rail transport system in addition to a series of safe houses and secret routes.The Underground Railroad was a critical and commercial success, hitting the best seller lists and winning several notable prizes. It won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction, the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence. It was longlisted for The 2017 Man Booker Prize.

Zone One

Zone One is a 2011 The New York Times best-selling novel by African American author Colson Whitehead. Zone One is part genre fiction, part literary fiction—a zombie story in the hands of a Pulitzer-nominated novelist. Whitehead has stated that the novel was partly an attempt to return to his adolescent fascination with horror writer Stephen King and science fiction icon Isaac Asimov.

Books by Colson Whitehead

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