A photo of Percival Everett
Acclaimed writer and USC Dornsife faculty member Percival Everett has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. (Composite: Letty Avila. Photo: John Davis/Windham-Campbell Prizes.)

Celebrated novelist Percival Everett elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters

A USC Dornsife Distinguished Professor of English and author of “Telephone,” “The Trees” and “American Desert,” Everett joins a select handful of notable figures in literature, music, art and architecture elected this year.
ByDarrin S. Joy

Percival Everett, Distinguished Professor of English at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Founded in 1898, the academy stands as an honor society of the country’s leading writers, artists, composers and architects.

Everett is one of just 19 individuals — only six of whom are in the literature category — elected as members this year.

He is the fourth USC faculty member elected to the academy and the second at USC Dornsife. (Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English and Writer in Residence Emeritus TC Boyle was elected in 2009.)

“I believe that the arts make us better, smarter,” Everett said. “I feel fortunate to be able to make a living as an artist and so participate in this ongoing discourse.”

Everett, whose research centers on American studies and critical theory, has authored 34 books as well as more than 70 shorter works including poems, essays and short stories.

His writing has garnered numerous awards, including the PEN/Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature for his novel Big Picture (Graywolf Press, 1996), the Pushcart Prize for his 1996 article “The Appropriation of Cultures,” and his first Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award in 2001 for Erasure (UPNE, 2001).

Erasure also earned Everett an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

He earned a second Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award in 2010 for I Am Not Sidney Poitier (Graywolf Press, 2009), and a third in 2021 for Telephone (Graywolf Press, 2020), a novel that placed him among the 2021 finalists for a Pulitzer Prize.

He earned a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in 2014 and a Guggenheim Fellowship a year later, and he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016.

The National Book Critics Circle presented him with the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022.

After earning an AB in philosophy at the University of Miami in 1977 and a master’s degree from Brown University’s Graduate Writing Program in 1982, Everett held faculty positions at the University of Kentucky, University of Notre Dame and the University of California, Riverside. He joined USC Dornsife’s Department of English in 1998 as a full professor and was named a Distinguished Professor of English by the university in 2007.