The May 2020 New York Times headline reading “Percival Everett Has a Book or Three Coming Out” deftly describes the magnitude of Percival Everett’s distinguished career.
Highly praised for his storytelling and ability to address the toughest issues of our time with humor, grace, and originality, Everett is the author of more than thirty novels and story collections, including The Trees (2021), which won the 2022 Ainisfield-Wolf Book Award for fiction; Telephone (2020), which was a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in fiction; So Much Blue (2017); Glyph (2014); Percival Everett by Virgil Russell (2013); I Am Not Sidney Poitier (2009); and Erasure (2001), all published by Graywolf Press.
His most recent novel, Telephone, has three different endings, depending on the version you read—and you can’t know ahead of time which ending you will get. It is a deeply affecting story about the lengths to which loss and grief will drive us: a Percival Everett novel that will shake you to the core as it asks questions about the power of narrative to save. In a recent interview about the variable endings, he stated, “I’m interested not in the authority of the artist, but the authority of the reader.”
Everett has won the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Critics Circle, Dos Passos Prize, the PEN Center USA Award for Fiction, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Fiction, The 2010 Believer Book Award, the Premio Gregor von Rezzori, a Creative Capital Award, BS the Academy Award in Literature from The American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.
His stories have been included in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Short Stories, and they are often featured on Selected Shorts, a radio program aired on NPR from Symphony Space in NYC.
Percival Everett was born in 1956 and grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. After graduating from the University of Miami, he began a philosophy degree at the University of Oregon, then transferred to a master’s program in fiction at Brown, where he wrote his first book, Suder. In 1989, he was invited to address the South Carolina State Legislature, but during his speech refused to continue because of the presence of the Confederate flag, thus touching off a controversy that ended with the flag being removed from the Capitol building some years later. He was inspired by this experience to write his powerful and funny story “The Appropriation of Cultures.”
Everett is currently a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California. He lives in Los Angeles.