Colson Whitehead: Harlem Shuffle
See Colson Whitehead, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, read from and discuss his new book Harlem Shuffle, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s. Whitehead will be in conversation with Dr. Ivy Wilson, writer and Northwestern University professor. Each reservation includes one pre-signed advance copy of Harlem Shuffle. This Printers Row Lit Fest program is sponsored by the American Writers Museum and the Joseph and Bessie Feinberg Foundation.
This event requires advance registration and all guests must show proof of vaccination with a valid photo ID. Unvaccinated individuals will not be admitted to this event.
More about Harlem Shuffle:
“Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked…” To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver’s Row don’t approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it’s still home.
Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.
Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn’t ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn’t ask questions, either.
Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa—the “Waldorf of Harlem”—and volunteers Ray’s services as the fence. The heist doesn’t go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.
Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?
Harlem Shuffle’s ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.
But mostly, it’s a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.
COLSON WHITEHEAD is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Underground Railroad, which in 2016 won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and the National Book Award and was named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review. His 2019 novel The Nickel Boys won the Pulitzer and Kirkus prizes for fiction and was longlisted for the National Book Award. He is also the author of The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and The Colossus of New York. He has received MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships. He has taught at Princeton University, New York University, the University of Houston, Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, Wesleyan University, and been a Writer-in-Residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond, and the University of Wyoming. He lives in New York City.
DR. IVY WILSON teaches courses on the comparative literatures of the black diaspora and U.S. literary studies with a particular emphasis on African American culture. His book, Specters of Democracy: Blackness and the Aesthetics of Nationalism (Oxford UP), interrogates how blackness was used to socially regulate U.S. citizenship and traces how African American intellectuals manipulated the field of aesthetics as a means to enter into political discourse. His other work in U.S. literary studies includes edited volumes on James Monroe Whitfield, Albery Allson Whitman and Walt Whitman.