Victor LaValle

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Victor LaValle
Portrait photoshoot at Worldcon 75, Helsinki, before the Hugo Awards – Victor LaValle.jpg
Born (1972-02-03) February 3, 1972 (age 49)
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States

Victor LaValle (born February 3, 1972) is an American author. He is the author of a short-story collection, Slapboxing with Jesus and four novels, The Ecstatic, Big Machine, The Devil in Silver, and The Changeling. LaValle writes fiction primarily, though he has also written essays and book reviews for GQ, Essence Magazine, The Fader, and The Washington Post, among others.

Early life[edit]

Victor LaValle was born on February 3, 1972 and raised in the Flushing and Rosedale neighborhoods of Queens, New York by a single mother who had emigrated from Uganda in her twenties. He attended Woodmere Academy and went on to earn a degree in English from Cornell University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Columbia University.

Literary career[edit]

Slapboxing with Jesus was published in 1999 by Vintage Books. The eleven interconnected stories deal mostly with the lives of young black and Latino men living in New York in the 1970s and 1980s. The collection went on to receive wide critical praise. It won the author a PEN Open Book Award[1] and the Key to Jamaica, Queens.[2]

The Ecstatic was published in 2002 by Crown Publishing Group. The novel continues the story of Anthony James, a character from LaValle's collection of stories. Anthony is a morbidly obese college dropout who may also be experiencing the first signs of schizophrenia. The novel follows the exploits of his family, who are trying their best to save Anthony, but who might be in need of a little saving themselves. The subject matter is dark, and even shocking, but a gallows humor runs throughout. This book received even wider critical acclaim, earning comparisons to writers such as Ken Kesey, Chester Himes, and John Kennedy Toole. In 2003 the novel was a finalist for both the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.[citation needed] It became a favorite novel for rapper Mos Def, who later titled his 2009 studio album after it.[3]

Big Machine was published in 2009 by Spiegel & Grau. The novel tells the story of Ricky Rice, an ex-junkie survivor of a suicide cult whose life is changed when a mysterious letter arrives summoning him to a remote compound in Vermont. The novel was widely praised upon its release, making many national top ten lists. It also won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel in 2009, as well as the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence and an American Book Award in 2010.

The Devil in Silver published by Spiegel & Grau August 21, 2012, is the story of Pepper, a sane man sent for observation to a mental hospital. There he encounters a monster roaming the nighttime halls. He teams up with some of the other inmates to fight the mental confusion of the drugs he is required to take, the staff, and the monster.

The Ballad of Black Tom, a novella, was published by Tor Books on February 16, 2016. It is a retelling of the H. P. Lovecraft story "The Horror at Red Hook" from the point of view of a young black man living in Harlem with a reference to the Nation of Gods and Earths.[4]

The Changeling, published in 2017 by Spiegel & Grau and received critical acclaim. It was selected as one of 2017's ten best books by New York Public Library[5] and won a 2018 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel,[6] the 2018 Locus Award for Horror Novel,[7][8] and the 2018 British Fantasy Award for Horror Novel.[9]

Destroyer, a graphic novel published in 2017 by Boom! Studios, is a modern retelling of Frankenstein. The story follows an African-American descendant of Dr. Frankenstein, her only son who was killed in a police encounter, and the monster from the original novel who has long given up on peace.[10]

Personal life[edit]

LaValle is an associate professor at the Columbia University School of the Arts. He lives in New York with his wife, novelist Emily Raboteau, son and daughter.[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]



  • Slapboxing with Jesus: Stories. Vintage. 1999. ISBN 978-0-375-70590-8.
  • The Ecstatic. Crown. 2002. ISBN 978-0-609-61014-5.
  • Big Machine. Spiegel & Grau. 2009. ISBN 978-0-385-52798-9.
  • The Devil in Silver. Spiegel & Grau. 2012. ISBN 978-1-400-06986-6.
  • The Ballad of Black Tom. Tor. 2016. ISBN 978-0-765-38786-8.
  • The Changeling. 2017. 2017. ISBN 978-0812995947.
  • As Editor, with John Joseph Adams: A People's Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers. Random House Group. 2019. ISBN 978-0525508816.




  1. ^ a b "PEN Open Book Award Winners". PEN America. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  2. ^ Hendrick, Daniel (27 July 2000). "Jamaica JAMS Kicks Off With Reception Honoring Leaders". Queens Chronicle. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  3. ^ Samuel, Steven (2009). "Mos Def Reveals New Album Details, Bringing Back Def Poetry". SOHH. Archived from the original on August 4, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  4. ^ LaValle, Victor (16 February 2016). "What Lovecraft Taught Me About Harlem". Fantastic Stories of the Imagination. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  5. ^ Lobash, Lynn (6 December 2017). "NYPL's 10 Best Books of 2017". New York Public Library. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  6. ^ "2018 World Fantasy Awards".
  7. ^ "2018 Locus Awards Winners". Locus Magazine. June 23, 2018. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  8. ^ Schaub, Michael (June 26, 2018). "Locus Award winners include N.K. Jemisin, Victor LaValle and John Scalzi". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  9. ^ "British Fantasy Awards 2018 – winners". The British Fantasy Society. October 22, 2018. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  10. ^ "Victor LaValle Resurrects Frankenstein in Socially Conscious New Comic, Destroyer". Paste Magazine. May 25, 2017. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  11. ^ Lavalle, Victor (October 2013). "Here's To The Weird". Specter Magazine (Interview). Interviewed by Mensah Demary. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  12. ^ "2017 Hugo Awards". World Science Fiction Society. Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  13. ^ "SFWA Announces 2016 Nebula, Norton, and Bradbury Award Nominees! - The Nebula Awards". The Nebula Awards. 2017-02-20. Retrieved 2017-03-06.
  14. ^ "Programs - Letterenfonds". Retrieved August 4, 2016.
  15. ^ Crowder, Courtney. "LaValle's 'Big Machine' wins Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence" Archived 2014-09-26 at the Wayback Machine, The Chicago Tribune, Chicago, 17 November 2010.
  16. ^ "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Victor LaValle". Retrieved August 4, 2016.
  17. ^ "ABA: The American Book Awards / Before Columbus Foundation". 13 March 2013. Archived from the original on March 13, 2013. Retrieved August 4, 2016.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  18. ^ Nichols, John (22 December 2009). "MVPs of 2009". The Nation.
  19. ^ "Best Books of 2009". Retrieved August 4, 2016.
  20. ^ "Victor LaValle". Retrieved August 4, 2016.

External links[edit]