Nashville Public Library to Honor Colson Whitehead as 2021 Literary Award Winner

In-person and virtual celebrations including Patrons Party, Public Lecture and Gala to take place Nov. 12 and 13.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nashville Public Library and the Nashville Public Library Foundation are proud to honor award-winning and New York Times best-selling author Colson Whitehead as the 2021 Literary Award winner during the upcoming Literary Award Weekend. Whitehead’s impressive collection of works and his commitment to the education of disadvantaged students and young people of color make him the ideal recipient for this award.

“We are elated to honor Colson Whitehead, after two years of waiting, and to spend the weekend celebrating literacy and the great work of the Library,” said Shawn Bakker, president of the Nashville Public Library Foundation. “His work speaks to so many of the important issues our society is grappling with today, and we are excited to bring those conversations to our community.”

Often described as "the best book club in town," the weekend kicks off on Friday, Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m. with the Patrons Party, sponsored by Pinnacle Financial Partners and held at the Main Library. This evening cocktail party will feature exclusive tours of the Library’s Civil Rights Center and the Votes for Women Room, culminating in a captivating conversation between Colson Whitehead and local award- winning author and Parnassus Books co-owner Ann Patchett.

The community will have a chance to hear from Whitehead during the free Public Lecture on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 10 a.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. High School. To properly socially distance, capacity for the in-person lecture will be held to 50 percent with advanced registration required. The event will also be streamed virtually through Facebook Live for additional access to the event. The Public Lecture serves as the official kick-off to Nashville Public Library’s annual citywide reading program “Nashville Reads,” where Whitehead is this year’s selected author.

The weekend will culminate in the first-ever Literary Award Gala to be offered both virtually and in- person. The in-person Gala will be held in the breath-taking Grand Reading Room of the main library on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 6:30 p.m. The virtual option offers all of the splendor of the in-person Gala with provided dinner, an exclusive party favor, and access via live stream to Whitehead’s remarks. Both options will celebrate Whitehead and the Library’s unparalleled impact on our community.

In accordance with the recommendations from the Nashville Public Library Foundation’s Health & Safety Partner, Meharry Medical College, all three events will be held at 50 percent capacity and require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test issued by a medical provider within 72 hours of the events.

Literary Award Weekend Events
Patrons Party

In Conversation: Colson Whitehead & Ann Patchett
Friday, Nov. 12
6:30 p.m.
Nashville Public Library Main Branch, 615 Church Street, Nashville, TN 37219 Presented by UBS and sponsored by Pinnacle Financial Partners

Free Public Lecture
Saturday, Nov. 13
10 a.m.
Martin Luther King Jr. High School, 613 17th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37203 Presented by UBS and sponsored by Dollar General

Literary Award Gala
Saturday, Nov. 13
6:30 p.m.
Nashville Public Library Main Branch, 615 Church Street, Nashville, TN 37219 Presented by UBS

Limited tickets for the Patrons Party and Gala are available now at The Public Lecture is free to the public and tickets can be reserved at

About the 2021 Literary Award Honoree Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead is the number one New York Times best-selling author of ten works of fiction, including newly released “Harlem Shuffle,” and nonfiction, and he is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “The Nickel Boys” and “The Underground Railroad,” which also won the National Book Award. A recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, he's taught at multiple post- secondary institutions including Columbia University and Princeton University. For more information about Colson Whitehead, visit

About Nashville Public Library Foundation

Founded in 1997, the Nashville Public Library Foundation (NPLF) is a 501(c)3 organization with focus on supporting and fundraising for Nashville Public Library (NPL). As a department of Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, the Library depends on public funding to support operations and maintenance; however, it thrives because of private investment. NPLF has raised over $60 million to advance the impact of NPL programs and initiatives. These gifts allow the library to nurture children and teens, empower our community’s adults, and build conversations about equity. For more information on NPLF or to make a gift, visit