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2007 Community Read Gala Lecture

Colson Whitehead 

The 2007 Community Read culminated in an evening event featuring a public lecture by Professor Michael Bérubé, Paterno Family Professor of Literature, in which he offered interpretive comments about The Intuitionist and suggested why he finds it particularly relevant and important. Three well-known scholars of Contemporary and African American literatures, Louise Bernard (Georgetown University), Charles B. Harris (Illinois State University), and Aldon Nielsen (Penn State University), responded to Professor Bérubé's remarks. The evening was crowned by none other than Mr. Colson Whitehead himself, who offered his own response to Michael's interpretation of his novel.

Community Read of Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist Gala
Friday April 6, 2007
Palmer Lipcon Auditorium, Palmer Museum of Art

Featuring a public lecture by
Penn State Paterno Family Professor of Literature,
Michael Bérubé
"Race and Modernity in Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist "
Responses by
Assistant Professor Louise Bernard, Georgetown University
Professor Charles B. Harris, Illinois State University
George and Barbara Kelly Professor of American Literature, Aldon Nielsen,
Penn State University

the prize-winning author of The Intuitionist

Mr. Colson Whiteheah

Born and raised in New York City , Colson Whitehead graduated from Harvard in 1991 and worked for several years as a pop-culture and television critic for the Village Voice . His first novel, The Intuitionist , appeared in 1998 and received enthusiastic critical praise for both its unique voice and its imaginative allegory of race relations in America . The Intuitionistwon the Quality Paperback Book Club's New Voices Award and was a finalist for the Ernest Hemingway/PEN Award for First Fiction.

Whitehead followed his debut with his multilayered second novel, John Henry Days(2001), which won rave reviews for its juxtaposition of the story of the 19th century folk-hero John Henry, a black railroad worker who died in the act of defeating a steam drill in a contest, with J. Sutter, a modern-day hack journalist who is sent to cover a John Henry Day festival. John Henry Day s was awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, established to honor a novel or short story collection by an American author age 35 or younger. The book was also a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

In 2002, Whitehead received a MacArthur Foundation "genius award" given to scholars, artists, and activists to free them to pursue their work. In 2003, he published a collection of impressionistic essays about his hometown, The Colossus of New York: A City in 13 Parts.

His most recent novel, Apex Hides the Hurt (2006), has earned Whitehead the title of the "current master of verbal be-bop." A chronicle of the adventures of an African American "nomenclature consultant" summoned to help the residents of a small town rename their city in an effort to improve its image, Apex Hides the Hurt constitutes an eloquent commentary on race, history, and the American obsession with starting over.

Whitehead is also the winner of a 2000 Whiting Writers' Award. His journalism has appeared in NewsdaySpinVibe, and The Village Voice.