Colson Whitehead gesturing at a 2018 talk.
Colson Whitehead. Credit: Garrettf67 / Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0

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“Pop Life: Literature and Culture” with Colson Whitehead and Kevin Young

Weaving together pop culture and literature is a delicate task. However, it’s clear that author Colson Whitehead and poet Kevin Young combine the two better than almost anyone. They will be conversing on April 1 at “Pop Life: Literature and Culture,” a presentation hosted by the Library of Congress. Whitehead, the author of The Nickel Boys and The Underground Railroad, often features pop culture references in his work. He’s twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; he also won the 2020 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. The latter prize is the genesis of Thursday’s event: Each year the recipient curates an event of their choosing. Whitehead’s powerful storytelling and wider social commentary has made his work essential reading. For Whitehead, a talk with poet, essayist, and friend Kevin Young was a no-brainer. Young’s poetry, including BrownBook of Hours, and Jelly Roll, has been widely lauded for its transcendental depictions of grief, love, joy, and every emotion in between. He is also an acclaimed nonfiction writer and has been named the incoming director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The talk, moderated by author Isaac Fitzgerald, will focus on the role that pop culture has had on their work and close friendship. From reality television to Jean-Michel Basquiat, Young and Whitehead discuss their wide array of influences and their longstanding friendship built on road trips and mutual support. The event begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 1. The event will premiere on YouTube and Facebook and will be listed afterward at Free.