James Alan McPherson

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James Alan McPherson
Born (1943-09-16) September 16, 1943 (age 72)
Savannah, Georgia
United States
Nationality American
Notable works Elbow Room

James Alan McPherson (born September 16, 1943) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning[1] American short story writer and essayist. He has been a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship[2] and a MacArthur Fellowship.[3] McPherson is a member of the permanent faculty of the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

McPherson was born in Savannah, Georgia. He attended Morris Brown College in Atlanta, graduating in 1965.[5] He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1968.[5] He has also been educated at Morgan State University, The University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop, and Yale Law School.[citation needed]


McPherson won the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his short story collection Elbow Room, becoming the first African-American to win the Pulitzer for fiction.[5] He was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981.[3] His work has appeared in 27 journals and magazines, seven short-story anthologies, and The Best American Essays.[citation needed] In 1995 McPherson was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[citation needed]

He has taught English at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Harvard University, and Yale University. He lectured in Japan with Dr. Jerald Walker at Meiji University and Chiba University.[4][5]

In 2000, John Updike selected his short story "Gold Coast" for his collection Best American Short Stories of the Century (Houghton Mifflin).[6]

In October 2011 McPherson was honored as the inaugural recipient of the Paul Engle Award from the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature. The Engle Award honors an individual who, like Engle, longtime director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and co-founder of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, represents a pioneering spirit in the world of literature through writing, editing, publishing, or teaching, and whose active participation in the larger issues of the day has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts.


Railroad: Trains and train people in American culture (1976)

Story collections[edit]


  • Crabcakes (memoir) (1998)
  • A Region Not Home (essays) (2000)


  1. ^ "The Pulitzer Prizes | Awards". pulitzer.org. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  2. ^ "All Fellows". John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Retrieved 29 January 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Fellows list - M". The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved 29 January 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Writers' Workshop - the University of Iowa". University of Iowa. Retrieved 29 January 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d "James Alan McPherson, 71MFA Prize Work: Elbow Room; 1980 Pulitzer Prize: Fiction". University of Iowa Alumni Association. Retrieved 29 January 2010. 
  6. ^ "The Best American Short Stories of the Century". Powells.com. Powells Books.