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Original Sin: America and the Legacy of Slavery

Sat, Nov 5, 2016 from 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
1037 SW Broadway Portland, OR 97205

The authors of two recent novels which directly confront the institution and legacy of the slave trade discuss their work. Yaa Gyasi’s debut Homegoing follows the generations of a family separated when one half-sister is sold into slavery, and one is married to a British slaver in Ghana. Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad reimagines the freedom trail as a literal subterranean train, as Cora escapes from a Georgia plantation and embarks on a journey toward freedom in the antebellum American South. Moderated by Rukaiyah Adams.

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Yaa Gyasi

Author of the critically acclaimed, New York Times best-selling debut novel Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she held a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. She lives in Oakland, California.
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Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead’s novel, The Underground Railroad, is the winner of both the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction and the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. One of the most critically acclaimed novels in recent years, the book was a #1 New York Times bestseller, an Oprah’s Book Club 2016 selection, and Amazon’s #1 book of 2016, in addition to being included on numerous 2016 best books lists, including The New York Times‘ and The Washington Post’s top ten books of the year.  Describing the book, Oprah Winfrey writes, “From the first page of Colson Whitehead’s extraordinary novel The Underground Railroad I knew I was reading something ground-shifting.” The Underground Railroad is a magnificent tour de force that chronicles a young slave’s journey during a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. The novel is a shattering meditation on the United States’ complicated political and racial history. “The Underground Railroad reanimates the slave narrative, disrupts our settled sense of the past and stretches the ligaments of history right into our own era.” (The Washington Post). In April 2017 Whitehead was named one of Time Magazine‘s “100 Most Influential People.” A dynamic speaker, Whitehead lectures with his characteristic honesty and wit. He is a winsome storyteller and captivates audiences with inspiring anecdotes about his diverse bibliography, irreverent “Rules for Writing,” and how he came to write his powerful new novel. Whitehead is the New York Times bestselling author of The IntuitionistJohn Henry DaysThe Colossus of New York (a book of essays about the city), Apex Hides the HurtSag HarborZone One, and The Noble Hustle. His writing has appeared in The New York TimesThe New YorkerNew York MagazineHarper’s, and Granta among other publications. A PEN/Faulkner Award finalist, he is the recipient of both a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has taught at universities across the country. Whitehead’s 2019 book, The Nickel Boys, is an exploration of life under Jim Crow told from the perspective of two boys in one of the country’s most notorious juvenile correction institutions, the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, located in the Florida panhandle. This meticulously researched and searing book was an instant New York Times bestseller and won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in fiction. It was also longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award and nominated for The National Book Critics Circle Award. Colson Whitehead will be receiving the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction during the 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival.
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Rukaiyah Adams

Rukaiyah Adams is an avid reader and lover of American History. For work, she is the Chief Investment Officer at Meyer Memorial Trust. She is responsible for leading all investment activities to ensure the long-term financial strength of the organization, including investment policy, asset allocation, performance measurement, manager selection, and risk management. Before joining Meyer, she ran the $6.5 Billion capital markets fund at The Standard. Rukaiyah is the Vice Chair of the Oregon Investment Council, the board that manages approximately $90 Billion for the State of Oregon and PERS; she also serves on the board of OPB. Rukaiyah holds a BA in African American Studies with academic distinction from Carleton College and a JD from Stanford Law, where she was on the Law and Policy Review and the Co-President of the Law Student Association. She also has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
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