American novelist Colson Whitehead has been selected as the 2019 recipient of Oregon State University’s Stone Award for Literary Achievement. The award is presented to a major American author who has created a body of critically acclaimed work and has mentored young writers.
“As one of America's pre-eminent novelists of the 21st century, Colson Whitehead is an audacious experimentalist as original as he is prophetic,” said Larry Rodgers, dean of OSU’s College of Liberal Arts. “We are thrilled to have him on campus next year, where he will give a performance open to the public.”
Whitehead is the author of six novels, including the highly acclaimed 2016 book, “The Underground Railroad,” which won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Carnegie Medal for Fiction, the Heartland Prize and the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Hurston/Wright Fiction Award.
“The Underground Railroad” reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, was selected for Oprah Winfrey’s book club and was included on former President Barack Obama’s summer reading list. His other works include novels “Zone One,” “Sag Harbor” and “John Henry Days;” “The Colossus of New York,” a collection of essays about the city; and “The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky & Death,” a non-fiction account of the 2011 World Series of Poker.
Whitehead, of New York City, graduated from Harvard and began his career writing reviews of television, books and music for the Village Voice. He has received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Dos Passos Prize and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.
Whitehead will visit Oregon in spring 2019 to accept the award and read from his work. His visit will coincide with the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference, which will be held in Portland and is expected to draw more than 11,000 attendees. Whitehead will deliver the keynote address at the conference, which will likely be attended by 3,000 people.
Whitehead will visit Corvallis April 1, 2019. Additional details about Stone Award related events next year will be announced at a later date.
The $20,000 Stone Award is one of the largest prizes of its kind given by an American university. It was established in 2011 by Patrick and Vicki Stone to spotlight OSU’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program in the School of Writing, Literature and Film. Joyce Carol Oates was the first honoree, in 2012; the second was Tobias Wolff, in 2014; and the third, Rita Dove, in 2016.