John Edgar Wideman
Harman Writer-In-Residence, Fall 2001
John Edgar Wideman, the distinguished fiction and nonfiction writer, is the Fall 2001 Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence at Baruch College. Mr. Wideman is the first writer to win the PEN/Faulkner Award twice, in 1984 for Sent for You Yesterday and in 1990 for Philadelphia Fire. His nonfiction book Brothers and Keepers received a national Book Critics Circle nomination, and his memoir Fatheralong was a finalist for the National Book Award. A prolific writer, his books include A Glance Away, Hurry Home, The Lynchers, Damballah, Hiding Place, Homewood Trilogy, Reuben, Fever, Collected Short Stories, Identities, and The Cattle Killing. His most recent novel is Two Cities.
Mr. Wideman has been awarded numerous prizes and honors, including, most recently, The O. Henry Award for best short story of the year for “Weight” (2000); the Rea Prize for short fiction (1998); and the American Book Award for fiction (1990), among others. His books have been translated into 11 languages.
Mr. Wideman grew up in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh and was a star basketball player as a student at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1960s. His new book, Hoop Roots (2001), is his memoir of discovering the game he loves, 50 years ago on a scruffy backlot playground, during the hot summer when his grandmother was dying. It is also the story of the roots of black basketball in America-a story inextricable from American racism.
Mr. Wideman is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. (July 2000)
“Writing of any sort consists of setting down one word after another, making something that doesn’t exist until it’s expressed with the medium of written language. The effort of making is at some level play, like patting clay, beating a drum, or tapping your toes, singing, or spreading paint with your fingertips—play that’s a gift to the artist the artist passes on, from the one to the many to the one. Serious play that reminds us we’re all in this together, this life, and what we make goes into the collective project to brighten and lighten, to glorify and transform the unavoidable pain and burden of being alive.”
-From the introduction to The Drueheinz Prize Anthology
John Edgar Wideman is the Asa Messer Professor and professor of Africana studies and English at Brown University. In 2001, he edited two collections: My Soul Has Grown Deep: Classics of Early African-American Literature, and 20: The Best of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize. In 2004, Mr. Wideman accepted the Langston Hughes Award at City College, and in 2005 a long awaited new collection of short stories, God’s Gym, appeared. He is also the subject of the 2006 volume Critical Essays on John Edgar Wideman.
His latest novel, Fanon (2008), was named a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times. (June 2009)