'Underground Railroad' author Colson Whitehead to speak at IU Bloomington

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Colson Whitehead. Madeline Whitehead

Colson Whitehead, whose novel "The Underground Railroad" was widely celebrated as one of the best works of fiction in recent years, will present the third Susan D. Gubar Lecture at Indiana University Bloomington.

Whitehead's presentation, which will include both lecture and reading, will take place at 7 p.m. April 3 in the Grand Hall of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center. It is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow.

"I am delighted that Colson Whitehead will be giving this spring's Susan D. Gubar Lecture," said Stephanie Li, the Susan D. Gubar Chair in Literature in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of English. "He just won the National Book Award for 'The Underground Railroad.' A MacArthur 'genius' award recipient, he is simply one of the most talented living American writers."

Praised by critics and promoted by Oprah Winfrey and President Barack Obama, "The Underground Railroad" was named best book of 2016 by The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Time magazine and several other national publications. It was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller and won the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

The Boston Globe called the book "a fully realized masterpiece, a weird blend of history and fantasy that will have critics rightfully making comparisons to Toni Morrison and Gabriel García Márquez." New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani called it "a potent, almost hallucinatory novel" that tells a story "essential to our understanding of the American past and the American present."

Whitehead was born and raised in New York, graduated from Harvard University and started his writing career producing reviews of television, books and music for the Village Voice. His books include "John Henry Days," "The Colossus of New York," "Apex Hides the Hurt," "Sag Harbor," "Zone One" and "The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky and Death."

He has received a MacArthur Fellowship (known as the "genius" award), a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Dos Passos Prize. His reviews, essays and fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Harper's and Granta. He lives in New York City.

The Gubar lecture series honors Susan D. Gubar, the Ruth N. Halls Professor Emerita of English in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington.