In 'Harlem Shuffle', Colson Whitehead masters a new genre: The Crime Caper (2023)

"It was a wonderful night on the town doing nothing good," writes Colson Whiteheadharlem shuffle,transports us into an electric New York night of bad deeds and big wins.

These odd nights are bread and butterharlem shuffle,a dizzying journey into the past of a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who is constantly reinventing himself. In this noiristic crime thriller, the year is 1959, and used furniture salesman Ray Carney is expecting his second child with his wife. The son of a notorious petty crook, Carney has worked hard to become an upstanding member of his Harlem community, but despite his best efforts, Carney is still "a little guilty" when it comes to "scams." Carney's moving dream of moving to Riverside Drive is expensive, so when cousin Freddie presents him with a necklace or ring of questionable provenance, he doesn't ask any questions—he simply locks the goods through a discreet jeweler downtown. Soon, Carney is embroiled in Freddie's risky antics to rob the Theresa Hotel, otherwise known as the "Waldorf of Harlem," but the heist doesn't go as planned. The aftermath sends Carney through Harlem's criminal underworld, where he discovers who's in power in New York and ends his double life as con artist and con man.

Whitehead's Harlem—"that rustling, creaking thing of men and concrete"—pulses with a lively heartbeat, the conjured dive bars and greasy spoons and iconic row houses of Strivers' Row. IfHarlem shuffleprogresses, Whitehead's lens widens to New York City: an ever-changing metropolis stratified by inequalities of race and power, shaken by the protests of the early civil rights movement. In this page-turning novel about how good people justify criminal lives, a master storyteller delivers beautifully rendered people and places. Whitehead spoke withEsquireby Zoom to talk about the mastermind behind his own heist, exploring Harlem's bygone era and how he expects the pandemic to change New York City.

Esquire: Where did this novel begin for you and how did it take shape over time?

Colson Whitehead:It was about seven years ago. I thought, 'Maybe I'll rent a heist movie tonight. Heist movies are a lot of fun. Can I write a book about robbery? I gave myself permission to do that. But I was about to start writingSubway, so I postponed it. When my calendar is free again,De Nickel Boysseemed more plausible given where we were after Trump was elected. Should I be hopeful or pessimistic about where the country is headed? SoDe Nickel Boysit seemed like a more compelling project to take on in 2017. But when I finished that book, I had all those notes in front of meHarlem shufflewhich I saved, so I quickly got to work. It is a completely different book from the previous two. It was kind of a relief, considering how bleak some of the material in it isSubwayUDe Nickel Boyshe was.

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ESQ: What is your personal attachment to the heist genre? Are there movies or books about heists that were your main focus when writing?Harlem shuffle?

CW:I grew up watching a lot of TV - I loved Saturday afternoon matineesConquest of Pelham One Two ThreeUDog afternoon. As I got older, I loved watching the earlier classicsA ridge,Asphalt jungle, uMurder. These are all films about low-tech heists, unlike e.gWarmthfromOcean 11. These guys don't rent million dollar electromagnetic pulse machines to disable casino security cameras. These are the guys who really sweat trying to get it done. I read a book about poker a few years ago; I learned about the gambler's attitude that the next hand will change their life. If they just hit this full house or royal flush, they will transcend their dirty, mediocre existence. If you're planning a big heist, you have the same hope that if you pull it off, put all the elements together, scheme and plan, you can escape your mediocre existence. Something about it was appealing to explore.

(Video) Colson Whitehead talks about his new book 'Harlem Shuffle'

ESQ: That's such a good point about technology. In a movie likeOcean 11, is so much less character-driven because million-dollar technology rules the day. While in the book it is likeHarlem shuffle, the characters must rely on their intelligence and interpersonal skills to get the job done.

CW:Also, a heist movie in general is full of incompetence. INOcean 11, everyone is really good at their job. In a more classic heist movie, the viewer knows that the wheeler got high the day before, or that the safecracker found out about his wife's affair and was really distracted. They are good at their jobs, but something goes wrong. A plan is something to be carried out by flawed people.

ESQ: The heist you pulled off is so amazing. How did you play the heist and make sure it was believable? Did you have to learn to think like a criminal?

CW:I sketch my books, which is mostly the same: lots of moving parts. I know what I'm trying to achieve, so how do I achieve it? I knew there were readers who would look at this rip-off and say, “That doesn't work. In 1964, hotels did not yet have such a safe.” So I really had to do some research. I found a good model in the robbery of the Hotel Pierre in the early 1970s. That's where I learned how to break into lockers. You have to take care of the elevator, the guests - all these different variables. My heist is on a smaller scale, but you do your research and hope you don't screw up enough to get angry letters.

ESQ: What specifically attracted you to this environment and how did you try to portray it authentically?

CW:I am always tied to time and place and I really need to succeed. Before I had the characters, I knew that I wanted my robbers to develop their heist during a time of urban disaster, like the 1977 blackout or the Harlem riots of the early 1940s. Ralph Ellison took advantage of the riotsinvisible manso he more or less owns it. But the Harlem riots of 1964, of which I was vaguely aware, seemed like something my robbers could use to cover up their crime. Then I had to make it real.

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MetSubway, I learned how useful primary sources are. WriteHarlem shuffle, I turned to the memoirs of gangsters or gangsters' wives. Bumpy Johnson was a famous Harlem criminal. I wanted to include him in the book, but he was actually in Alcatraz while the book was taking place. His ex-wife has a memoir detailing how the whole operation worked. I have a lot from the memoirs about how these secret criminal organizations and rackets worked. I went toNew York Timesarchives to find out what happened in the city in 1961. “Robert Wagner was re-elected. Can I use it for something?” Newspapers also run full-page furniture ads, so I would steal language from furniture ads.

I don't like leaving the house to do research, and luckily I live in a time where I can do a lot of things from home. If you go to YouTube and type in 1960s Harlem, you'll see that an amateur photographer uploaded his 8mm travelogue of 125th Street in 1963. From there I can see how much a dozen eggs cost, what kind of hats they wore, what kind of cars they drove and other important details. It's all about finding those primary sources, stealing what I can from them, and hopefully using those facts in an artistic way.

(Video) Colson Whitehead discusses his novel "Harlem Shuffle" at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

ESQ: That's something that struck meHarlem shuffle. The texture and vibrancy comes in part from the way you conjure up the material lives of the characters: what they wear, what they eat, what the property looks like. In Carney's showroom, we can practically see and touch the furniture. You write: "There was a natural flow of goods in and out and through human lives, from here to there, an outflow of property." That rejection is so real in the novel.

CW:It is the energy of the city. Slipping envelopes in and out of crooked people's hands. The flow of household goods, that is, used and stolen jewelry. There is also the ebb and flow of the neighborhood. Harlem was German, Irish, Jewish and Italian. These people came to America, first lived there, then became middle class and moved on. In their place came a new wave of immigrants from the South, the West Indies and the Caribbean. This is the energy of the city, this constant growth and renewal.

ESQ: Your fiction is often filled with people with odd jobs, esoteric jobs. Hitchhikers, nomenclature consultants - now you've turned to low-level criminals. What is intriguing or narratively fruitful for you about these kinds of jobs?

CW:I come across an article about, say, company names, and I think, "That's an interesting business. What do they do?" Then he stays with me. FromFrom the intuitionist, I saw the Dateline NBC report on the escalator inspectors. I thought, "Who is that guy?" In fiction, they became elevator inspectors. I get ideas from magazine articles, TV shows and just walking down the street. I love finding something I've never thought of. The fence, in the case of Ray Carney. They even have cleaning crews comingzone one: zombie janitors. If there is an apocalypse and the apocalypse ends, who will clean up? Who are these people? I find these odd jobs very fertile opportunities for research. If it's the right thing, if it sticks with me and I keep coming up with more details or speculations I want to explore, it could become a story idea.

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ESQ:Harlem shuffleis the latest entry in this direction in which you ventured into writing fiction, the action of which is set in the past. What attracts you to write about the past?

CW:My first few books were very contemporary.John Henry Dagentalks about Internet culture in 1996;Apex hides painit is a business oneit speaks volumes about life in New York right now in our modern consumer society. I really felt like I had my say. I have nothing more to say about the culture of the information age and how we live now. Going back in time, I found a few stories to tell. I can use different muscles in research, but also in recreating the psychology of the characters of that particular time period. There are also stories that have not been told. Are there many stories about fences? I have no idea. Not when I started looking six years ago. But was there ever a story about a black fence? I'm pretty sure not. FromDe Nickel Boys, the story of those terrible reform schools was unknown. With stories about the past, I get something that hasn't been explored in fiction before. In caseDe Nickel Boys, can I pay tribute to the survivors and those who died there. This is different from writing about Web 2.0 or Web 3.0.

ESQ: One of the most fascinating things about itHarlem shuffleis the novel's interest in the split self, or split self—the ways in which we protect parts of our personality and identity. You write of Carney: "He had spent so much time trying to separate one half of himself from the other half, and now they were about to clash. But then - they were already sharing an office, weren't they? He had fooled himself.' How exactly does Carney see himself?

CW:He was mistaken. He lies about how much he likes the depraved lifestyle. People tell him it's a fence, and he says, "No, sometimes I just sell used goods." While he actually only sells stolen goods. Part of the book's arc is his acceptance, rejection, and ultimately acceptance of his criminal side, which is his natural inclination. He knows who he is. But he won't say it out loud.

(Video) Colson Whitehead “El ritmo de Harlem” (English)

ESQ: Is that fun, writing a character with a gap between the stories he tells himself and the stories he tells in public?

CW:It is the shadow of an unreliable narrator, where the story he tells the reader is not necessarily true. He knows where to deal with untruths. It's definitely fun. When I researched, I learned how much of a fence this channel is between the real world and the crooked world. The job mediates between two different worlds, and it continued with its divided psychology.

ESQ:Harlem shufflethere is a lot to be said about how people get involved in crime and how they justify such a lifestyle to themselves. Why does Carney keep getting dragged into it, almost but not quite against his will?

CW:He would very much like to live in the house where he grew up. He doesn't want to be a criminal. He does not want to live like his father, who was a petty thief. He wants a wife and children and all the trappings of the middle class that are denied him. But he is who he is. To me it is very interesting and dynamic: to follow what you want to be in relation to what you really are. In the end, his eyes are opened to how things really work in Harlem and in the city. Everyone is guilty. Everyone exchanges envelopes. You walk past all these storefronts every day and you don't know that there is a game of craps in the back. Everyone cooks except the wife and children. So why not? There are so many different degrees of how bad you can be. To him, he's not nearly as bad as someone like Miami Joe.

It's very interesting and dynamic: following what you want to be versus what you really are.

ESQ: What was it like creating a minor villain like Miami Joe, after creating some tall evil evil villains in your previous novels?

CW:i seeHarlem shufflelike three novellas combined into one novel, so that each has its own villain. None of them are as terrifying as the slave catcherFrom Subway, but I wanted to have fun with the genre and have these colorful villains who are a great obstacle for Carney as well as formidable opponents in their own right. Whether it was Miami Joe or the banker or the villains in the third installment, it was important to find people who could test Carney, but who also had to fit into the colorful menagerie I was creating.

ESQ: Carney wants to put his shady past behind him, but as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that the respectable world is governed by some of the same principles as the corrupt world. You write: "Many crooks have been fighters, and many fighters have broken the law." The back cover describes the novel as a morality play, but in a way, with the overlapping of the curved world and flat worlds, the novel is almost morally neutral. Can you explain how you see the novel as a morality play?

CW:I'm pretty neutral about all these different characters, and I think the narrator is too. Carney, on the other hand, judges the people he meets. What I like about the three-part structure is that the first part allows me to introduce the players and rules of the Harlem world in the late 1950s. In the second part, I can step back and look at these different dynamics in terms of class and corruption. In Part 3, I can pull back and bring in Wall Street and Park Avenue - to really see how the city really works, not just on the corner of 125th Street. Different people are in their own ruts in terms of where they fall on the moral-immoral spectrum. I think the narrator has a neutral attitude.

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(Video) Colson Whitehead: Freed by Fiction | Sternstunde Philosophie | SRF Kultur

ESQ: You finished this novel at the beginning of the pandemic. What was it like to write a story about a strong, vibrant New York at a time when the city was so eroded?

CW:I finished the novel in May 2020. By the time it closed in March, I was already on the final descent so I actually brought it in for the landing. Often what I write has nothing to do with what is happening in my life. I have to get into character and that's how it is. It was strange to finish the book and the George Floyd protests the next day. I just finished this description of the aftermath of a large protest, and then we're back to the same discussion about police brutality. That was strange.

zone oneis about a pandemic and deflated New York. It was creepier to be the author of a zombie apocalypse novel than the authorHarlem shuffle.I didn't realize how important toilet paper would be in the apocalypse. That's where my imagination failed. I never imagined that some people would say, "Zombie virus! It's like the flu. You'll get over it." Or, "I won't take the zombie vaccine!" The lockdown was weird because I had written an apocalyptic New York novel, even more soHarlem shuffle.

I didn't realize how important toilet paper would be in the apocalypse. That's where my imagination failed.

ESQ: So many writers have said that the past eighteen months have been very creatively challenging for them. How did this time affect your creativity?

CW:In terms of writing, I was more productive. I was able to finish the book when I found out I could give online lessons to kids, and when I finished the book, I started writing more of Carney's stories set in the 1970s. I just kept going. it was really productive and great to have him in my life. However, my leisure reading did not take off. I can only read New York crime stories, memoirs or non-fiction. My attention span took a real hit. I can watch TV or read things for work, but I can't read for pleasure. Hopefully I can get back to it now that we're back to normal.

ESQ: The end of the novel is so beautiful and poignant. You're trying to capture the constant change, progress, and rebuilding of New York. Reminds me ofessayyou wrote inNew York Timesalmost twenty years ago, two months after 9/11, about your private New York. That essay and the endHarlem shufflethey seem to share some thematic DNA. Does your private New York change after the pandemic? How do you expect the city to change in a broader sense?

CW:For me, that essay is about making your idea of ​​the city about the city itself, but also about looking back at your previous self and all the things that occupied the same space. This is definitely my attitude towards the city. Downtown New York is Cortlandt and Greenwich and Radio Row, and then it's the crater. Then it's the World Trade Center. Then it's the crater and then it's the Freedom Tower. All those lost histories of New York, and we're making new histories at the same time. How I perceive myself and my past is connected to how I perceive the city.

How I perceive myself and my past is connected to how I perceive the city.

I searched many places for this book and then for the other Carney book. I've never met Upper Manhattan. My first home growing up was on 139th and Riverside, but I never got to know Washington Heights. I never knew East Harlem. As I find places for Carney to have adventures, I get this new New York, and it's been great. If I couldn't go to shops and restaurants, all I could do was stand outside on the sidewalk. Being outdoors was part of what kept us human. It allowed me to rediscover the city.

I don't know what kind of art will come out of this. There's a new honesty, likeTed Laso- everyone is honest now. That's what they said after September 11. But I remember standing outside last year and thinking about how empty the streets were. There are more people with mental illnesses on the street. The city is dirtier. It reminded me of the angsty New York of the 1970s. From that terrible time when the city was bankrupt and crime was at its peak, we got disco, punk and New York salsa. It was a time when the city was a terrible place to be, but writers, artists and musicians found a way to use it and make something new. I don't know how to describe post-pandemic art, but New York always comes back and comes back. It's because of the people. Whether teachers or doctors, bus drivers or artists, we are all forced to confront what has happened to the city, then dig deep and rebuild in different ways.

In 'Harlem Shuffle', Colson Whitehead masters a new genre: The Crime Caper (5)

Adrianne Westenfeld

Editor for books and fiction

Adrienne Westenfeld is the books and fiction editor at Esquire, where she oversees book covers, edits fiction, and manages the Esquire Book Club.

(Video) A Conversation with Colson Whitehead and Solmaz Sharif


What is the overview of Harlem Shuffle? ›

Harlem Shuffle's ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It's a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.

What happens in part 3 of the Harlem Shuffle? ›

Part 3: “Cool It Baby | 1964”

Three years later, Ray has moved his family to a better neighborhood. Following the collapse of Duke's bank, his in-laws have moved three times and faced financial difficulty. At a family meal, Leland and Alma complain about the recent protests and riots in the city.

What are the themes of Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead? ›

“Harlem Shuffle” shines in the realism it creates, the themes of power, influence, race and revenge have shaped modern New York City and every other American city built on a foundation of inequality and corruption.

What happens in Chapter 2 of the Harlem Shuffle? ›

In Part II, Carney has begun using the furniture shop as a front for criminal activity. Local thieves bring him stolen loot, which Carney moves with the help of a local jeweler, Harvey Moskowitz. Suddenly Carney feels that he is becoming the powerful and successful man he has always wanted to be.

What is the theme of Harlem? ›

''Harlem'' by Langston Hughes Theme

'' One is racism. The poem exemplifies the negative effects that oppressive racism had on African-Americans at the time. These negative effects include being weighed down by shattered dreams as well as by violence. Another theme is injustice.

What is the main idea of Harlem Dancer? ›

"The Harlem Dancer" is a sonnet by the Jamaican-American poet Claude McKay. The poem offers a tender portrait of a nightclub dancer, describing the contrast between her distracted inner thoughts and her sensual presence in the club.

What happened in the ending of Harlem Shuffle? ›

Pepper kills two henchmen, and they leave behind the documents, fleeing the scene and taking Freddie to hospital. Freddie later dies of his wounds. The Van Wyck family considers the matter closed. Ray wanders through Harlem, reflecting on his recent experiences and growing business.

What is the ending of Harlem Shuffle? ›

At the end we see the chasm from which the World Trade Center's twin towers will rise, the fruit of a deal between more compromised New York mucky mucks. Sic transit gloria mundi, says the author. Thus passes worldly glory. Harlem Shuffle is yet another Colson Whitehead masterpiece.

What happened in Chapter 7 of the Harlem Shuffle? ›

In Chapter 7, Carney thought about his situation with Freddie while walking. He knew he did not have to get involved. Yet he also "wanted to prove that he could move a big rock" and "stick it to the rich bastards again" (285). Observing the city's recent changes, Carney noticed the ways it was divided.

What does Harlem Hopscotch symbolize? ›

In this piece, Angelou describes a game of hopscotch, using it as an extended metaphor to speak about how Black men, women, and children have to move through a racist world. She explores the meaning of freedom and alludes to the dangers of pushing too far.

Is Harlem Shuffle a mystery? ›

Harlem Shuffle is a suspenseful crime thriller that's sure to add to the tally — it's a fabulous novel you must read.”

Who is the main character in Harlem Shuffle? ›

Ray Carney

Ray is the protagonist of Harlem Shuffle and the readers' entry point into the world of Harlem in the late 1950s and early 1960s. As an African American man from a poor background, Ray has faced many challenges in his life.

Is Harlem Shuffle Based on a true story? ›

It is a work of crime fiction and a family saga that takes place in Harlem between 1959 and 1964. It was published by Doubleday on September 14, 2021. A sequel titled Crook Manifesto will be published in July 2023.

What happens in chapter 21 of Down These Mean Streets? ›

Chapter 21 Summary: “Hung Down”

Piri starts to sell drugs himself in order to support his habit, working for a drug dealer nicknamed “Turkey.” Making good money and doing a lot of drugs, Piri is satisfied until there is a city-wide shortage of heroin, and he loses his supply of both drugs and money.

What happened in chapter 1 The Street? ›

Chapter 1 Summary

The novel opens as Lutie Johnson walks the uninviting streets of Harlem looking for a new apartment for herself and her 8-year-old son, Bub. The streets are dirty and empty and the harsh wind outside does “everything it could to discourage the people walking along the street,” (2).

What type of imagery is used in the poem Harlem? ›

entitled Harlem[Dream Deffered], the following stanza presents gustatory imagery. Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet? The words Syrupy sweet, get the readers imagine the taste of sugar. Through this poem, Hughes tells the readers that if his dreams come true and perfect, then it would be as sweet as sugar.

What is the tone of Harlem? ›

The tone of “Harlem” is anticipatory and prophetic. Everything the speaker says in the poem is oriented toward what will happen in the future.

What is the mood of the poem Harlem? ›

Answer and Explanation: The mood of the poem ''Harlem'' (also known as ''A Dream Deferred'') by Langston Hughes is frustration; the poem expresses the belief that the American Dream was not achievable for African Americans in the early 20th century due to racism and oppression.

What is the main message of dance? ›

Basic motives: self-expression and physical release. One of the most basic motives of dance is the expression and communication of emotion. People—and even certain animals—often dance as a way of releasing powerful feelings, such as sudden accesses of high spirits, joy, impatience, or anger.

What literary devices are used in the Harlem dancer? ›

The poem contains imagery and figurative language. For example, the speaker compares the dancer to a "flowering tree," which serves to illustrate her beauty. The poem also contains internal rhyme, with the lines "was never known to tire," "so lithe and lithely," and "so slim and slimly" all rhyming.

What is the conclusion of the Harlem dancer? ›

In conclusion, the ending paragraph states' but looking her falsely -smiling face, I knew herself was not in that strange place'. The moral of this ending is that sometimes in life people become caught up in the ways of society that they forget who they are and the morals they were brought up on.

Why is it called Harlem Shuffle? ›

The Harlem Shuffle is a dance that was popular in the '50s and '60s originating in Harlem ballrooms. Harlem is a section of New York City with a large black population. >> This was originally recorded by the R&B duo Bob and Earl in 1969.

Who is Linus in Harlem Shuffle? ›

Add to all of this Freddie's unusual relationship with Linus Van Wyck, the drug addicted son of Ambrose Van Wyck, and Ray finds himself dragged into worlds he never imagined. Leland Jones, Elizabeth's father, is a member of Harlem's exclusive Dumas Club.

Who is Elizabeth in Harlem Shuffle? ›

ElizabethRay Carney's wife.
Mr.WilliamsA math teacher.
JaneWilliamsMr. William's wife
MayCarney's daughter.
172 more rows

What time period was Harlem Shuffle? ›

“Harlem Shuffle” is structured as a three-part mini-series set in 1959, 1961 and 1964.

How many chapters does Harlem Shuffle have? ›

This in-depth study guide offers summaries & analyses for all 26 chapters of Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead.

How many pages are in Harlem Shuffle? ›

Product Details
Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:08/09/2022
Sales rank:12,812
1 more row

What happens to the hens in chapter 7? ›

Napoleon uses Mr. Whymper to spread news of Animal Farm's sufficiency to the human world. After learning that they must surrender their eggs, the hens stage a demonstration that only ends when they can no longer live without the rations that Napoleon had denied them. Nine hens die as a result of the protest.

What happens when the boys start chanting dancing and re enacting the hunt in chapter 7? ›

What happens when the boys start chanting, dancing, and re-enacting the hunt? Ralph gets scared and runs away.

What happens to Charles Wallace in chapter 7? ›

The evil man is able to get into Meg and Calvin's minds and convince them that a synthetic substance is a lovely turkey dinner. Charles Wallace, however, is not fooled by this. To him, the turkey tastes like sand. The man tries to hypnotize Charles Wallace, but Meg tackles him and brings him back.

What does the title Harlem mean in the poem? ›

The title, “Harlem,” places the poem in this historically black and immigrant neighborhood in New York City, while the "dream" could be any dream that those in Harlem have had: a dream for a better life, for opportunity, for equality—most broadly, for access to the American Dream itself.

What is the figurative language in the Harlem Hopscotch? ›

The game of hopscotch functions as an extended metaphor, representing the set of rules that Black Americans are expected to follow in order to navigate and survive in a racist society.

What is the meaning of night funeral in Harlem? ›

“Night Funeral in Harlem” depicts the funeral of a young Black man who died in poverty. While this "poor boy" didn't leave much money behind, his community covered all his funeral expenses; the people who loved him pay for his coffin, flower arrangements, and a preacher.

What is Dorval in Harlem Shuffle? ›

The French call this middle period dorveille, combining words for both sleep and awake. Carney refers to it as the “dorvay,” due to its pronunciation. This idea of our nights divided into threes is also a metaphor for Carney's life in Harlem Shuffle.

What happens in mystery genre? ›

The mystery genre is a genre of fiction that follows a crime (like a murder or a disappearance) from the moment it is committed to the moment it is solved. Mystery novels are often called “whodunnits” because they turn the reader into a detective trying to figure out the who, what, when, and how of a particular crime.

What genre of music is Harlem Shuffle? ›

Rhythm and blues

Who was the little boy in Harlem Nights? ›

Desi Arnez Hines II: Young Quick.

Who were the characters from Harlem Nights? ›

Has Harlem Shuffle won any awards? ›

The acclaimed work won several awards, most notably a Pulitzer. In 2021 Whitehead published Harlem Shuffle, a crime novel that opens in 1959 and centres on a furniture salesman who becomes involved in a scheme to rob a hotel.

Is Nickel Boys a sequel to Underground Railroad? ›

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is the follow-up to his Pulitzer-winning Underground Railroad.

What happened in chapter 14 of Down These Mean Streets? ›

Chapter 14 Summary: “Learning Some New ABC's”

C—care” (134). On the way to signing up for the Merchant Marine, they take a packed train. Piri is pressed up against a white woman. He becomes sexually aroused, and, to his surprise, the woman enjoys the experience.

What happens in chapter 13 in We Beat the Street? ›

Chapter 13 Summary: “If He Dies, You're Charged With Attempted Murder” Rameck continues to feel the pull of his Plainsfield friends though his mother continuously reminds him that they are going to get him into trouble.

What is the main idea of down these mean streets? ›

Racial identity is a prevalent topic in Down These Mean Streets. The book tells the story of Piri, a Puerto Rican black man, who has to navigate through a complex system of discrimination and racial prejudice in the USA. Piri's story portrays the difficulty of navigating through different racial identities.

What happens at the end of chapter 1 night? ›

The chapter ends with Elie and his family being forced into cattle cars and taken to the concentration camp, Auschwitz.

What is the plot of the street? ›

Set in Long Island, New York, in suburban Connecticut, and in Harlem, The Street is the story of intelligent, ambitious Lutie Johnson, who strives to live in dignity and to make a better life for herself and her son despite a constant struggle with sexual brutality and racism.

What happened in chapter 25 of Devil in the White city? ›

Summary: Chapter 25: Final Preparations

The death toll rises, and union carpenters strike for a minimum wage and other conditions. The Ferris wheel remains unfinished. The white paint requires constant patching. Burnham feels optimistic despite these setbacks, especially when McKim organizes a banquet in his honor.

What happens in the end of Harlem Shuffle? ›

At the end we see the chasm from which the World Trade Center's twin towers will rise, the fruit of a deal between more compromised New York mucky mucks. Sic transit gloria mundi, says the author. Thus passes worldly glory. Harlem Shuffle is yet another Colson Whitehead masterpiece.

What was Shuffle Along and why was it significant? ›

Written, staged, and performed entirely by African Americans, Shuffle Along was the first show to make African-American dance an integral part of American musical theatre. The African-American musicals of this era, especially Shuffle Along, are of great importance to the history of American musical theatre.

What is the history of Shuffle Along? ›

Shuffle Along, a musical comedy by composer Eubie Blake and lyricist Noble Sissle which featured an all-black cast, was the most significant achievement in black theatre of its time. Shuffle Along opened at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., in late March, 1921 for two weeks.

What city is Harlem Shuffle based in? ›

Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs? Harlem Shuffle's ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s.

How does the White Boy Shuffle end? ›

The novel ends with his death poem, left in his LAPD locker before he kills himself by swallowing his own gun.

Why does Helga leave Harlem? ›

Helga's decision to leave Harlem to live with her aunt in Denmark is heavily informed by her search for belonging, but she still grapples with guilt over her desire to disassociate from society's tendency to view her as a Black woman.

Did Shuffle Along use blackface? ›

In fact, even as they broke barriers by performing an all-Black show, the Black performers still had to wear blackface to avoid making white audiences uncomfortable. At the same time, the show featured a developed romance plot between two Black characters, something unheard of in mainstream theater at the time.

Who got her big break in the lead of Shuffle Along? ›

Shuffle Along was Florence Mills's Broadway debut, but she had been a performer long before that. Throughout her career as a singer and dancer she confronted racial stereotypes, broke down barriers, and won over black and white audiences alike.

What are some fun facts about Shuffle Along? ›

Shuffle Along was the first Broadway musical play with a book, music, dance, and cast created by African-Americans. The show's book was written by its lead comedians Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles; the lyrics and music were written by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake. Both had successfully toured on white vaudeville.

Where did the shuffle come from? ›

Where did it start? The Shuffling dance started in Melbourne, Australia, in the underground rave scene back in the early 1980s. Back then, it was known as the Melbourne Shuffle.

What does it mean to shuffle around? ›

: to move about, back and forth, or from one place to another : shift.

What does it mean to shuffle things around? ›

to move similar things from one position or place to another, often to give an appearance of activity when nothing useful is being done: She shuffled her papers nervously on her desk. Many prisoners have to be shuffled around police stations because of prison overcrowding.


1. AAAC Book Club – Nov. 18, 2021
2. Interview with Laura Lippman | Between the Covers
(South Florida PBS)
3. Black History Black Stories
4. Tea and New Book Tuesday
(Mobile Public Library)
5. Article part 2 - Delgadoedu
6. Book Club: “You Don’t Belong Here” by Elizabeth Becker with Karen DeYoung of The Washington Post


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