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. He has also published two books of non-fiction. In 2002, he received a MacArthur Fellowship ("Genius Grant").
Colson Whitehead at the 2009 Texas Book Festival.
|Born||November 6, 1969|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Notable works||The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Zone One, The Underground Railroad|
|Notable awards||National Book Award for Fiction, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction|
Whitehead was born in New York City on November 6, 1969, and grew up in Manhattan. He is one of four children to successful entrepreneur parents who owned an executive recruiting firm. He attended the elite prep Trinity School in Manhattan and graduated from Harvard University in 1991. In college he became friends with poet Kevin Young.
Early in his career, he lived in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Whitehead lives in Manhattan and also owns a home in Sag Harbor (The Hamptons), on Long Island. His wife is a literary agent and they have two children.
Whitehead has since produced nine book-length works—seven novels and two non-fiction works, including a meditation on life in Manhattan in the style of E.B. White's famous essay Here Is New York. The books 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; 2016's The Underground Railroad, which earned a National Book Award for Fiction, and 2019's The Nickel Boys.Esquire magazine named The Intuitionist the best first novel of the year, and GQ called it one of the "novels of the millennium." 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."
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.
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. In January 2017 it was awarded the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction at the American Library Association Mid-Winter conference in Atlanta, GA. Colson was also honored with the 2017 Hurston/Wright Award for fiction presented by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation.
Whitehead's seventh novel, The Nickel Boys, was published in July 2019. In conjunction with the publication of The Nickel Boys, Whitehead was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine for the July 8, 2019 edition, alongside the strap-line "America's Storyteller". Currently, Whitehead is working on an eighth novel (originally conceived and begun before he wrote The Nickel Boys). The work-in-progress is an untitled crime novel set in Harlem during the 1960s.
- 2000 Whiting Award
- 2002 MacArthur Fellowship
- 2007 Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars Fellowship
- 2012 Dos Passos Prize
- 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship
For The Intuitionist
- Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices Award
- Finalist, Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award
For John Henry Days
- Young Lions Fiction Award
- Anisfield-Wolf Book Award
- Finalist, Pulitzer Prize
- Finalist, National Book Critics Circle
- Finalist, Los Angeles Times Book Prize
For Sag Harbor
For Zone One
- Finalist, Hurston-Wright Legacy Award
- The Intuitionist (1999)
- John Henry Days (2001)
- Apex Hides the Hurt (2006)
- Sag Harbor (2009)
- Zone One (2011)
- The Underground Railroad (2016)
- The Nickel Boys (2019)
- The Colossus of New York (2003)
- The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky & Death (2014)
- "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.
- 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winners and Nominees, The Pulitzer Prizes, 2017, retrieved April 10, 2017
- Mitchell S. Jackson (June 27, 2019). "'I Carry It Within Me.' Novelist Colson Whitehead Reminds Us How America's Racist History Lives On". Time. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
- Emma Brockes (July 7, 2017). "Colson Whitehead: 'To deal with this subject with the gravity it deserved was scary'". The Guardian. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
- Purcell, Andrew (May 20, 2017). "Colson Whitehead: 'The truth of things, not the facts'". Western Advocate. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
- "Don't You Be My Neighbor". NYMag.com. Retrieved February 19, 2019.
- "Colson Whitehead". Colsonwhitehead.com. Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
- Nancy Smith (July 17, 2012). "Interview with Colson Whitehead". The Rumpus. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
- "The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead, 2016 National Book Award Winner, Fiction". Archived from the original on December 8, 2017. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
- "Colson Whitehead". Pen.org. Archived from the original on June 10, 2007. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
- John Updike, "Tote That Ephemera," The New Yorker, May 7, 2001.
- "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.
- Allie Malloy, "Obama summer reading list: 'The Girl on the Train'", CNN, August 12, 2016.
- Sarah Begley, "Here’s What President Obama Is Reading This Summer", Time magazine, August 12, 2016.
- French, Agatha. "American Library Assn.'s 2017 award winners include 'March: Book Three' by Rep. John Lewis". latimes.com. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
- "Colson Whitehead Honored Once Again for His Novel The Underground Railroad", The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, October 25, 2017.
- "ALA Midwinter 2017: Colson Whitehead, Matthew Desmond Win ALA Carnegie Medals". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
- Fain, Kimberly. Colson Whitehead: The Postracial Voice of Contemporary Literature. Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
- Kelly, Adam. 'Freedom to Struggle: The Ironies of Colson Whitehead.' Open Library of the Humanities (Oct 2018).
- Maus, Derek C. Understanding Colson Whitehead. University of South Carolina Press, 2014.