Every year that I've assigned Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, folks in the classes who have some initial difficulties with the book want to know what made me choose it. For some reason, I typically stumble through answers.
But this time, I'm prepared. I think. Perhaps.
I’m showing up to class tomorrow with a good ol’ top 10 list of reasons why I favor assigning The Intuitionist for the African American literature courses I teach:
10. I enjoy watching the processes of initially confused readers becoming “Oh, I get it” readers. Working through The Intuitionist can expand literary and cultural competencies.
9. Readers previously unfamiliar with Whitehead’s book give me new things to think about a novel that I *thought* I already knew really well.
8. Reading The Intuitionist might lead folks to C. Whitehead’s various other books or to some of his cool, comical essays like "Finally, A Thin President" and "The Year of Living Postracially."
7. I really like The Intuitionist. And that fact wouldn’t matter much except; well, I happen to also hold the grade book. (insert diabolical laughter here.)
6. The Intuitionist helps us think about afrofuturism. That is to say, Whitehead’s book can prompt conversations - that we haven't had nearly enough of - about the interactions of race and technology.
5. Aspects of The Intuitionist echo Ellison’s Invisible Man and Morrison’s Song of Solomon, along with some minor traces of James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, Chesnutt’s “The Wife of His Youth,” Richard Wright’s The Outsider, and Octavia Butler's Wild Seed. In other words, The Intuitionist connects to quite a few other books and big ideas in African American literature.
4. The uncanny similarities between the first female colored elevator inspector and the first black woman U.S. Secretary of State as well as the connections between The Intuitionist and Daredevil are worth discussing.
3. Lila Mae is one of the ultimate black nerds in fiction. [Check out her responses to a question for an exam.]
2. It’s a book about elevators.
1. Reading The Intuitionist (and this top ten list) might lead you to produce your own "Top 10 Reasons for Re-Reading The Intuitionist," a list more impressive than mine.