Critically acclaimed novelist Colson Whitehead will deliver the Susan Resneck Pierce Lecture in Public Affairs and the Arts on Monday, Oct. 26, at 5 p.m. in a virtual event that is free and open to the public. The event includes an introduction from University of Puget Sound President Isiaah Crawford, remarks by the author, and an interview of Whitehead with Puget Sound’s Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Monica DeHart and Professor of English Priti Joshi. As part of this engagement, Whitehead will also meet with students in an upper division non-fiction prose course.
Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for both The Underground Railroad (2016) and The Nickel Boys (2019), Whitehead also is the recipient of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction and the Orwell Prize for political fiction. His reviews, essays, and fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Harper’s, and Granta, among other publications. Numerous awards and recognition for his work include a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and he has served as writer-in-residence at Vassar College in addition to teaching at numerous other universities throughout the United States. Whitehead graduated from Harvard University in 1991.
Upon the release of The Nickel Boys in 2019, reviewer Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “A writer like Whitehead, who challenges the complacent assumption that we even fathom what happened in our past, has rarely seemed more essential. Were Whitehead’s only aim to shine an unforgiving light on a redacted chapter of racial terrorism in the American chronicle, that would be achievement enough. What he is doing in his new novel, as in its immediate predecessor, is more challenging than that. While race and its intersection with the American mythos have informed his fiction since his debut, “The Intuitionist” (1998), and played out in an eclectic variety of novelistic genres since (from the coming-of-age reverie “Sag Harbor” to the zombie-populated “Zone One”), he has now produced back-to-back historical novels, in the broadest definition of that term, that in sum offer an epic account of America’s penchant for paying lip service to its original sin while failing to face its full horror and its undying legacy of recidivism.”
Established in 2002 in honor of President Emeritus Susan Resneck Pierce, the Susan Resneck Pierce Lectures in Public Affairs and the Arts lecture series brings public intellectuals, writers, and artists of high recognition in public affairs and the arts to campus for timely discussions on current affairs, creativity, and expression. Previous Pierce lecturers include former national security advisor H.R. McMaster, poet Nikki Giovanni, former senior advisor to President Obama Valerie Jarrett, columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., filmmaker Spike Lee, author Sherman Alexie, choreographer Twyla Tharp, and many others.
Books by the author are available via the campus bookstore.