A reading and conversation with prolific writer Percival Everett

Kathryn Nicolai, News Editor

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The Griot Institute for Africana Studies’ series “Erasure: Blackness and the Fight Against Invisibility” continued Feb. 14 with Percival Everett speaking in the Gallery Theatre. Everett read excerpts from his novel, “I Am Not Sidney Poitier,” and carried a discussion with professor of English Anthony Stewart. Everett has published almost thirty books and is a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California.

Everett shared anecdotes involving bigotry he has experienced in America. Writing about the current political climate is not feasible for Everett right now due to his anger, which he claims cannot produce art alone. According to Everett, the often satirical nature of his work is also not applicable to America’s current political climate because it is as though reality is the joke.

Everett is the recipient of a several notable literary awards including the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the Believer Book Award, and the 2006 PEN USA Center Award for Fiction.

“I just want to make books. I don’t really care about awards,” Everett said. “I don’t know what giving awards to art really means.”

Everett is uninterested in pleasing the collective of committees that choose award recipients. “We all experience art individually. I would rather have someone hate my art viscerally than to please a bunch of people cooly or comfortably.”

Being a professor, “keeps me mentally younger,” Everett said. “[University students] are willing to take intellectual risk and we can forget that as we get older.”

Everett’s perspective on time and the ever changing nature of life was reflected in his statement: “I still wonder what I should do when I grow up.”

Christine Cha ’20 asked Everett, “What is your definition of erasure?” Everett answered that erasure is his presence. In today’s culture, an example of erasure is being here. “It is artwork.”

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