Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, Jeffery Renard Allen is the author of five books, including the novel Song of the Shank, which is loosely based on the life of Blind Tom, a nineteenth century African American piano virtuoso and composer who was the first African American to perform at The White House. The novel was featured as the front-page review of both The New York Times Book Review and The San Francisco Chronicle. It won the CLMP Firecracker Award, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, and was also nominated for the Dublin Literary Prize. Allen is the author of two other works of fiction, the novel Rails Under My Back, which won the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Fiction, and the short story collection Holding Pattern, which won The Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Allen’s other honors include the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was a fellow at New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers and a resident at the Bellagio Center. His website is www.jefferyrenardallen.com.