Colson Whitehead has been hailed as one of the United States’ most talented and innovative young writers. As a child growing up in New York City, he decided that he wanted to be a novelist after reading Stephen King’s novels. Whitehead matriculated at Harvard University; after he was not accepted into Harvard’s creative writing seminars, he studied English and comparative literature. Upon receiving a B.A. in 1991, he became an editorial assistant at The Village Voice; he wrote music, television, and book reviews and eventually became the newspaper’s television editor. While working at The Village Voice, he met and married Natasha Stovall, a photographer and writer. Whitehead’s essays have appeared in other publications, such as The New York Times, Vibe, Spin, and Newsday.
Although Whitehead worked in San Francisco, where he wrote about Internet events, and taught in the University of Houston’s creative writing program during the spring semester for several years, he is a self-described lifelong New Yorker. He and his wife made their home in Brooklyn. On September 11, 2001, Whitehead and Stovall stood on a hill in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park and looked out on lower Manhattan. They watched the World Trade Center’s two towers burn and collapse after the terrorist attacks of that morning. One of Whitehead’s most eloquent and memorable essays, “Lost and Found,” (The New York Times, November 11, 2001), pays tribute to the Twin Towers, New York City, and memories.
Whitehead continues to write essays, yet he is best known for his fiction. In his first novel, The Intuitionist, he pits an urban department of elevator inspectors’ two contentious groups against each other: the Intuitionists and the Empiricists. The novel’s protagonist, Lila Mae Watson, is the first...
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