A. J. Verdelle (born 1960 in Washington, D.C.), is an American novelist who is published by Algonguin Books & Harper, with essays published by Crown, the Smithsonian, the Whitney Museum, Random House, & University of Georgia Press. Verdelle has forthcoming novels from Random House, imprint Speigel & Grau.
Verdelle is the daughter of A.Y. and Patricia Howell Jones, both parents native Washingtonians. On her father's side, she is a fourth generation Washingtonian, making her a descendant of the sequestered and little studied freedmen's community that burgeoned after slavery and reconstruction in the nation's capital, in the 19th century. Verdelle attended a private Catholic girls' high school, La Reine, in Suitland, MD, a Prince George's County suburb of Washington, D.C. She graduated in 1982 from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in Political Science, an M.A. in Applied Statistics in 1986, and earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Bard College, in the Hudson Valley of NY, in 1993. After receiving her graduate degree, Verdelle moved to Brooklyn, New York, and founded her own statistics consulting firm in 1988.
Verdelle's prize-winning first novel, The Good Negress, was published to considerable acclaim in 1995, paperback in 1996. Verdelle's debut novel received the rare endorsement by Nobel laureate, Toni Morrison, who called the novel "truly extraordinary." Verdelle taught Creative Writing at Princeton University, Vermont College, and currently teaches in the MFA program at Lesley University.
In 2010, Verdelle was featured in a documentary, Cheating the Stillness, chronicling the life of Julia Peterkin, who was the first American woman to be awarded the Pulitzer prize, 1929. Peterkin wrote several novels about black life in the plantation south. Peterkin's perspectives were searingly intimate, suggesting to the uninformed that Peterkin herself was a black writer. Verdelle studied Peterkin's oeuvre, and featured Peterkin's novel Scarlet Sister Mary in the narrative interior of The Good Negress.
- Finalist, Los Angeles Times Book Prize
- Finalist, PEN/Faulkner Award
- Vursell Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters
- 1996 Whiting Writers' Award
- Carolyn C. Denard, ed. (2008). "Loose Magic: A.J. Verdelle Interviews Toni Morrison". Toni Morrison: conversations. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-60473-019-7.
- Susan Burmeister-Brown, Linda B. Swanson-Davies, ed. (2006). "Free Sentences Free Thoughts". The Glimmer Train guide to writing fiction: building blocks. Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 978-1-58297-446-0.
- "HEMINGWAY AT 100", News Hour, PBS, July 21, 1999