Edward P. Jones

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Edward P. Jones
Born (1950-10-05) October 5, 1950 (age 70)
Washington, D.C.
Alma materCollege of the Holy Cross
University of Virginia
Notable awardsPulitzer Prize for Fiction
International Dublin Literary Award
MacArthur Fellowship

Edward Paul Jones (born October 5, 1950) is an American novelist and short story writer. His 2003 novel The Known World received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the International Dublin Literary Award.


Edward Paul Jones was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and educated at both the College of the Holy Cross and the University of Virginia.[1]

His first book, Lost in the City, is a collection of short stories about the African-American working class in 20th-century Washington, D.C. In the early stories are some who are like first-generation immigrants, as they have come to the city as part of the Great Migration from the rural South.

His second book, The Known World, was set in a fictional Virginia county and had a protagonist who was a mixed-race black planter and slaveholder. It won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2005 International Dublin Literary Award.

Jones's third book, All Aunt Hagar's Children, was published in 2006. Like Lost in the City, it is a collection of short stories that deal with African Americans, mostly in Washington, D.C. Several of the stories had been previously published in The New Yorker magazine. The stories in the book take up the lives of ancillary characters in Lost in the City. In 2007, it was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, which was won by Philip Roth's Everyman.

The stories of Jones' first and third book are connected. As Wyatt Mason wrote in Harper's Magazine in 2006:

The fourteen stories of All Aunt Hagar's Children revisit not merely the city of Washington but the fourteen stories of Lost in the City. Each new story—and many of them, in their completeness, feel like fully realized little novels—is connected in the same sequence, as if umbilically, to the corresponding story in the first book. Literature is, of course, littered with sequels—its Rabbits and Bechs; its Zuckermans and Kepeshes—but this is not, in the main, Jones’s idea of a reprise. Each revisitation provides a different kind of interplay between the two collections.[2]

Neely Tucker wrote in 2009:

It's gone almost completely unnoticed, but the two collections are a matched set: There are 14 stories in Lost, ordered from the youngest to the oldest character, and there are 14 stories in Hagar's, also ordered from youngest to oldest character. The first story in the first book is connected to the first story in the second book, and so on. To get the full history of the characters, one must read the first story in each book, then go to the second story in each, and so on.[3]

In the spring and fall semesters of 2009, Jones was a visiting professor of creative writing at the George Washington University.[4] In fall 2010 he joined the English department faculty to teach creative writing.[5]

Early Life

Edward Paul Jones was born on October 5, 1950, in Arlington, Virginia. He is the oldest of 3 children, with 1 sister and 1 brother. His mother was a hotel maid and kitchen worker; Jones grew up in a single parent with his mother for his father had drifted out of his life when he was a preschooler. After attending Catholic school for kindergarten and part of first grade, Jones was educated in Washington public schools. His interest in literature was sparked early. Though comic books formed the mainstay of his reading until he was thirteen years old, he eventually discovered novels. He says in an interview, “I always loved reading. It started with comic books, but then I decided to move further down the bookshelf… afterwhile i was reading everything I could get my hands on”. Though there is not much about Edward P. Jones’ early life in his short story “The First Day”, readers are able to get a glimpse of it through his creative storytelling. The story is about a young girl who is beginning kindergarten, and her mother who cannot read or write, but is steadfast in getting her daughter registered for school. It can be inferred that this story is reflective of the beginning of his young academic life because as we know his own mother was unable to read or write. This is a story of perseverance and sheer determination, and these same characteristics can be seen in Jones’s real life when taking into consideration all of his grand accomplishments.

Personal Life/ Later Life

  • Edward P. Jones grew up in the DMV area where he was the son of a maid & a kitchen worker. He grew up rather poor, the oldest of 3 children, 1 sister and 1 mentally challenged brother. With his father being absent from his life, his mother Jenatte struggled keeping her family together. Jones stated that they moved "18 times in 18 years". Jones attended Catholic school for kindergarten & part of first grade but later continued his matriculation in Washington Public Schools. His mother could not read or right so Jones was forced to sign his own report cards. His love for reading came at an early age, "I always loved reading" Jones said in an interview. He first began reading comics and things that were funny but it was not until he was mature in his adolescence when he discovered novels. "When I started reading black writers, I discovered two books that had a great impact on me: Ethel Waters' His Eye Is On The Sparrow & Richard Wright's Native Son" Jones told Publishers Weekly.
  • On his journey to find a University to attend Jones met a man by the name of Joseph Owens who persuaded him to apply to two colleges, College of the Holy Cross and Boston College. Jones was only accepted into one college and that acceptance was a complete shock to him. Jones recalled receiving a 482 on the reading portion of the SAT and a 532 on the math portion. Jones originally had plans on majoring in Mathematics but during his first year of college he was the only African American student, so he sat at the back of the class and did not ask questions causing him to fall behind in his coursework. Jones quickly switched his major to English. In his graduating class there were only two dozen African American students.
  • During is final year in college, Jones's mothers health was failing and she had suffered several strokes. On the day of his graduation he only expected his aunt and his sister to be present but Jones recalls looking in the stands and seeing his mother, this was one of their final memorable moments together. After completing his matriculation Jones returned to Washington to help care for his mother, he worked odd jobs causing him to live paycheck to paycheck. After his mothers passing Jones decided that he no longer wanted to live in Washington. However, his bad news was not all bad when Essence magazine reached out to him informing him that they would publish one of his stories.
  • After receiving a Masters of Fine Arts degree in 1983 from the University of Virginia, he returned to Washington where he landed a job at a newsletter company. Jones wrote whenever he had the time, his first piece of literature "Lost in the City" was a collection of short stories about his life in Washington D.C. he received numerous awards and accolades for this book. Immediately after the books success, Jones started working on his second book a novel about slaves who owned slaves. Jones stated that he did not remember where he saw that information but it stuck with him. In the midst of writing his second book "The Known World" Jones was laid off from his job. The Known World became a New York Times Bestseller & also received numerous accolades and awards.
  • To date (October 2020), Jones is never married or had any children. He has published 7 books.

Themes In His Writing

Edward P. Jones draws some inspiration for his novel Lost in the City from James Joyce’s Dubliners. James Joyce was an Irish novelist who contributed greatly to the avant-garde movement, and is one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. The avant garde movement consisted of people and/or works that were seen as radical and unorthodox with respect to art, culture, and society - characterized by aesthetic innovation. Though it is The Known World that Jones is awarded the Pulitzer prize for, readers are able to see in both works the reflection of Joyce’s influence. In an interview Jones talks about slavery being an epicenter in the lives of Black people, his included, and this emerges from a subconscious he has from simply living everyday. The Known World is a literal slave narrative, but the character(s) in “Lost in the City”, the actual short story and the novel, are metaphorical slave(s); to something. In this Jones presents us with an overarching theme of naturalism. Naturalism, in regards to his particular writing style, is more realistic and an authentic presentation of the world through the lens of the writer. It is deterministic, and instead the environment itself is oppressive. This book of short stories ranges from the youngest of Washingtonians to the oldest. The theme of naturalism coupled with realism, taking a truth at face value, breeds a work that presents the natives of this city in a light that is true for Jones and other natives. To give an example of realism in another short story, the story of “Marie” is one that also has a theme of urban renewal embedded in it. In this story it is about an older lady that tells her experience with the Social Security Office. In a section of the story, she is walking to the store not far from her apartment that she has lived in for many years, she is mugged by a young man who she describes as “20, no older than 25… dressed like the rest of them, like a blind person matched their colors” (Edward P. Jones, Lost in the City, “Marie”). When thinking about the word “urban renewal” the word gentrification could be thought of as a synonym to it. Going back to the chronology of the stories, youngest to oldest, this new age of younger people in a neighborhood that she has lived in her entire life is considered as a form of urban renewal.

Awards and nominations[edit]



  1. ^ Tucker, Neely (November 15, 2009). "The Known World of Edward P. Jones". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 24, 2010.
  2. ^ Mason, Wyatt (September 2006). "Ballad for Americans: The Stories of Edward P. Jones". Harper's Magazine. Retrieved January 11, 2020.
  3. ^ Daniel Silliman, "Abutting the Unknown", Comment, June 11, 2010.
  4. ^ Scire, Sarah (June 13, 2008). "University receives $1 million donation for library collection, sponsored professorship". The GW Hatchet. Archived from the original on August 31, 2008. Retrieved July 8, 2009.
  5. ^ Scire, Sarah (January 11, 2010). "Pulitzer Prize winner will join English department". The GW Hatchet. Retrieved January 11, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Edward P. Jones". National Book Foundation. Retrieved January 11, 2020.
  7. ^ Edward P. Jones Archived 2011-06-07 at the Wayback Machine, Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, 1994.
  8. ^ "Edward P. Jones". Pulitzer Prize. Retrieved January 11, 2020.
  9. ^ "A winner that deserves to be known to world". Irish Times. June 16, 2005. Retrieved January 11, 2020.
  10. ^ "Edward P. Jones". MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved January 11, 2020.

External links[edit]