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Author Profile: Colson Whitehead

Each month, we research our authors so that you can learn more about their background and how their stories came to life.



Where he comes from & where he is now: Whitehead was born, raised, and currently lives in New York City.

Where he studied: Whitehead graduated from Harvard University in ‘91.  While there, he knew he wanted to be an author, but “I applied to a creative writing workshop twice and I was turned down both times, which was depressing but also good training for the rejection you get as a writer.” – Whitehead

You might know him from: Whitehead is the author of six novels.  The Underground Railroad has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2017, the National Book Award for Fiction 2016, the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction 2017, and has been longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Award.  As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Whitehead was a winner of the 2002 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship.  

When’s he’s not writing: Whitehead is an avid reader; he’s a fan of crime fiction and reads comic books along with his daughter, who is a big comic book fan.  He’s also taught at a number of universities, including University of Houston, Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, New York University, Princeton University, Wesleyan University, and been a Writer-in-Residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond, and the University of Wyoming.

Whitehead on writing: “You have to do your own thing, right? [Toni] Morrison already wrote Beloved;you’re not going to compete with that. I have to write the book that makes sense to me, that’s entirely my own vision.” – Whitehead

There’s so much more to know: Harvard Magazine published an in depth interview with Whitehead after the release of The Underground Railroad.  Read it here.