Hilton Als

Nonfiction

2016

United States

In brilliant, fearless essays that blend memoir, biography, and cultural criticism, Hilton Als explores and explodes our ideas of sexual and racial identity.

Born in Brooklyn in 1960, Hilton Als is a staff writer for The New Yorker, where he has been the magazine's chief theater critic since 2013. Als is the author of two acclaimed works of nonfiction, White Girls (2013) and The Women (1996). In both books, he takes enormous risks in content and form: his characteristic mode is a free-form essay in which biography, criticism, meditation, and memoir flow together. The pieces in White Girls, for instance, break open standard narratives of gender and race by engaging with subjects as diverse as Truman Capote, Eminem, Flannery O’Connor, and Vogue editor André Leon Talley. The Women similarly combines portraits of three fascinating but tragic figures—Als’s mother Marie; the Warhol muse and socialite Dorothy Dean; and the poet and dramatist Owen Dodson—with personal reflections about Als’s childhood, adolescence, and coming-of-age as a writer. At once eclectic and focused, dense and loose, intimate and sharp, Als’s writing is absorbing and ingeniously provoking. A former fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, Als is an associate professor in the writing program at Columbia University's School of the Arts. He has also taught at Wellesley, Wesleyan, Smith, and the Yale School of Drama.

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I am gobsmacked and humbled. Essay writing is generally not known as a lucrative field; this honor allows me to continue the work I love with greater confidence--and faith.
Hilton Als