Leonard Pitts Jr.
Pitts is the author of several books and a syndicated columnist for the Miami Herald who won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004. Born in Southern California, he earned a degree in English from the University of Southern California at age 19, having entered school at 15 in an honors program. His new novel, Freeman, is set in the months after the Confederate surrender and Lincoln's assassination. Pitts, 54, lives in Bowie, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., with his family.
What's on your nightstand?
I usually have two books going at once. I've got on audio Chester Himes, A Rage In Harlem, and in traditional book form, The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter. It's a book on the idea that racism was constructed 300 or 400 years ago. Part of the reason was to justify slavery.
Do you recommend it?
It's scholarly and challenging, but it is fascinating. We tend to think that racism is self-evident, but Painter explains how it was created.
At your desk, do you keep particular authors and writings to inspire you?
I admire many columnists, but I don't keep any works on my desk. When it comes to column writing, I believe desperation equals perspiration equals inspiration. When I find a column topic is not immediately there, I know not to panic, and I know something will present itself.
What authors would you like young adults to pay attention to?
Actually, I want them to pay attention to history. My personal sense is that American history is being lost. Kids have no clue as to who and what they are. I'd have them reading John Hope Franklin, Lerone Bennett and Leon Litwack.
Who encouraged you to become a reader?
My mom. She was the one I saw reading for pleasure. The first stuff I read was by Stan Lee of Marvel Comics. He was having a ball, and Spider-Man is my favorite character. Period.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com.