Colson Whitehead

Facts about Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead is 54 years old
Best known as: The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 'The Underground Railroad'

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Colson Whitehead Biography

Writer Colson Whitehead is a New York essayist and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the novel The Underground Railroad (2016).

Raised in Manhattan, Colson Whitehead studied writing at Harvard College, and after graduating in 1991 landed a job writing book, music and television reviews for The Village Voice newspaper.

He won critical praise for his 1999 debut novel, The Illusionist, and was named by John Updike as a “writer to watch.” Since that auspicious beginning, Whitehead has continued to win praise. He is known for the variety of his novels: he has genre-hopped his way through fantasy, horror, historical fiction and even a non-fiction memoir of the 2011 World Series of Poker championships (2014’s The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky & Death). His books are often satirical, with commentary on race and pop culture informed by his New York Upbringing.

His 2016 novel The Underground Railroad received high praise as well as a promotional boost from Oprah Winfrey, and it made it onto President Barack Obama‘s reading list. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2017, with the Pulitzer committee citing the book’s “smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.” Whitehead has been a finalist in a number of book awards, and has also been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (the so-called “genius grant,” given in 2002 when Whitehead was aged 32) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (in 2013, for the study of fiction).

Colson Whitehead’s other novels include John Henry Days (2001), Apex Hides the Hurt (2006), Sag Harbor (2009) and Zone One (2011). He also published a collection of essays, The Colossus of New York (2003).


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