Tonight at 7 PM EST we’re excited to feature the last event in our National Book Festival Presents series “Hear You, Hear Me.” A week ago I wrote about the event featuring Joy Harjo and Tracy K. Smith, our past and present U.S. Poets Laureate appointed by the Librarian. What I couldn’t tell you then, and can now, is that the series is ending with the newest of our literary ambassadors: Colson Whitehead, our 2020 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction winner.
We announced the news of the prize just days ago—the Librarian wrote for the announcement:
Colson Whitehead’s work is informed by probing insights into the human condition and empathy for those who struggle with life’s sometimes harrowing vicissitudes. In novels such as “The Nickel Boys” and “The Underground Railroad,” he has expanded the scope of historical events, transforming them into metaphors for today’s world.
The Librarian and Whitehead spent a good deal of time discussing both books—winners of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 2017 and 2020—during their taping for tonight’s event. They also talked about the connection the novels, set in 19th and 20th centuries, have to the present. It was powerful to hear Whitehead talk about the weight of writing “The Nickel Boys”—you’ll have to tune in to the Facebook or YouTube broadcast tonight, or check out our website afterwards, to hear more.
There are plenty of noteworthy moments in the event, which highlights history and family. It was something to see the Librarian and Whitehead have their first conversation since the prize announcement, which we’ve all had to sit on! Months ago, I’d gotten to listen in when the Librarian called Whitehead to offer him the prize—it was so meaningful to see them continue, and deepen, that connection, and to know that all of you will have a chance to experience it as well.