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Hilton Als

Hilton Als, photo by Ali Smith
Hilton Als, photo by Ali Smith

Hilton Als is an essayist and theater critic for the New Yorker. He is the former editor-at-large of Vibe magazine, and was a staff writer for the Village Voice. In 1996, he published his first book, The Women, a mediation on gender, race, and personal identity. Als’ latest book, White Girls, is a collection of essays offering commentary on figures such as Michael Jackson and Richard Pryor. Elaine Pagels of Princeton University said White Girls “takes the reader on a wild ride through the complex, often rough, terrain of art, music, sexuality, race.”

Als is a dynamic and wide-ranging cultural commentator. From interviews to reviews, much of his work is filtered through his specific and commanding worldview. “The artist’s memory is a dangerous, necessary thing,” Als said in a 2014 commencement speech for New York University’s School of Art. “Never disavow what you see and remember—it’s your brilliant stock-in-trade: remembering, and making something out of it. Artists remember the world as it is, first, because you have to know what it is you’re reinventing; that’s a rule, perhaps the only one: being cognizant of your source material.”

Als is also active in the field of contemporary visual art. Als edited the catalogue for the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition entitled Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art. In 2009, Als worked with the performer Justin Bond on Cold Water, an exhibition of paintings, drawings, and videos by performers at La MaMa Gallery. In 2010, he co-curated Self-Consciousness, at the Veneklasen Werner Gallery in Berlin, and published Justin Bond/Jackie Curtis, his second book.

Als has written for the Nation, the Believer, and the New York Review of Books. He is a recipient of a 2000 Guggenheim fellowship and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. In 1997, the New York Association of Black Journalists awarded Als first prize in both Magazine Critique/Review and Magazine Arts and Entertainment. He has collaborated on film scripts for Swoon and Looking for Langston. Als has taught at Yale University, Wesleyan, and Smith College. He lives in New York City.

Selected Bibliography

White Girls (2013)
Justin Bond/Jackie Curtis (2010)
The Women (1998)

Online Resources

Hilton Als’ website
Ghosts in the Sunlight, NYU commencement speech
White Girls reviewed in NYT