Colson Whitehead in conversation with Jason Diakité
To the regular working-class people of Harlem, Ray Carney seems an honest salesman, with his own furniture store on 125th street. But come the night hours, his place of business becomes a dimly lit headquarters for Ray’s extended circle of crooks and semi-lurid types. Ray is pulled between making an honest but meager living and the more lucrative double-life as middleman to Harlem’s more hard-boiled criminals. His family needs a breadwinner, but Ray’s facade is showing bigger and bigger cracks.
Harlem Shuffle takes place in Harlem around the year 1960, where black Americans are excluded from the city’s finer trades, and tensions are rising in the streets. The novel asks how far an honest man is willing to go to survive, and poses the question of what “honest” even means in a country built on theft and exploitation.
Colson Whitehead made his popular breakthrough with the novel The Underground Railroad, which won him the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 2017, among other prizes. Since then, he has cemented himself as one of the great contemporary American authors with his now eight novels, among them The Nickel Boys in 2019, which also won the Pulitzer.
Jason “Timbuktu” Diakité is an artist and musician, radio host and author. He has depicted his own relationship to Harlem in his autobiography A Drop of Midnight, and will meet Whitehead in conversation about Harlem, racism and the crime novel.
The conversation will be held in English.