John Edgar Wideman

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John Edgar Wideman
Wideman at the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards in 2010
Wideman at the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards in 2010
Born (1941-06-14) June 14, 1941 (age 77)
Washington, D.C.
OccupationProfessor (emeritus)
Alma mater
  • Judith Ann Goldman
    (m. 1965; div. 2000)
    Catherine Nedonchelle (m. 2004)

John Edgar Wideman (born June 14, 1941) is an American writer and professor emeritus at Brown University.[1] He sits on the contributing editorial board of the literary journal Conjunctions.[2]

Early life[edit]

Wideman was born on June 14, 1941. He grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US, and much of his writing is set there, especially in the Homewood neighborhood of the East End. He graduated from Pittsburgh's Peabody High School, then attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he became an All-Ivy League forward on the basketball team. In 1962 he was the second African American to win a Rhodes Scholarship (New College, Oxford, England), graduating in 1966.[3] He also graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa.

Writing and teaching career[edit]

A widely celebrated writer and the winner of many literary awards, he is the first to win the International PEN/Faulkner Award twice: in 1984 for Sent for You Yesterday and in 1990 for Philadelphia Fire.[4] In 2000, he won the O. Henry Award for his short story "Weight", published in Callaloo journal. Following the publication of the Homewood trilogy, The New York Times proclaimed John Edgar Wideman, "one of America's premier writers of fiction."[5]

He has taught at the University of Wyoming, University of Pennsylvania, where he founded and chaired the African American Studies Department, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst's MFA Program for Poets & Writers. He currently is a professor at Brown University.


Wideman has been the recipient of a number of awards for his writing. His 1990 novel Philadelphia Fire[6] won the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1990, and the American Book Awards in 1991. His non-fiction book Brothers and Keepers received a National Book Critics Circle nomination,[7] and his memoir Fatheralong was a finalist for the National Book Award. In 1997, his novel The Cattle Killing won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction.

Wideman was chosen as winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story in 1998, for outstanding achievement, and won the lifetime achievement award of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards in 2011.[8]

Wideman is also the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant. In 2016, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.[9]


In 1965 he married Judith Ann Goldman, an attorney, with whom he has three children: Daniel, Jacob, and Jamila. That marriage ended in divorce in 2000. In 2004 he married French journalist Catherine Nedonchelle, with whom he resides on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City.

John's daughter Jamila Wideman was a professional basketball player in the Women's National Basketball Association and the Israeli League.



Omnibus editions[edit]

  • The Homewood Books (includes Damballah, Hiding Place and Sent for You Yesterday); Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992; as The Homewood Trilogy, New York, NY: Avon, 1985.
  • A Glance Away, Hurry Home, and The Lynchers: Three Early Novels by John Edgar Wideman, New York, NY: Henry Holt, 1994.


Memoirs and other[edit]

  • Brothers and Keepers (memoir), New York, NY: Henry Holt, 1984. London: Allison & Busby, 1985.
  • Fatheralong: A Meditation on Fathers and Sons, Race and Society, New York, NY: Pantheon, 1994.
  • (With Bonnie TuSmith) Conversations with John Edgar Wideman, Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 1998.
  • Hoop Roots: Basketball, Race, and Love (memoir), Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.
  • (Editor) My Soul Has Grown Deep: Classics of Early African-American Literature, Philadelphia, PA: Running Press, 2001.
  • (Editor) 20: The Best of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001.
  • The Island: Martinique, Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Directions, 2003.
  • Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File, New York, NY: Scribner, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jean-Pierre Richard, "John Edgar Wideman: A Bibliography, Primary and Secondary Sources", Callaloo, Volume 22, Number 3, Summer 1999, The Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 750–757. E-ISSN 1080-6512. Print ISSN 0161-2492 doi:10.1353/cal.1999.0130
  • James W. Coleman, Blackness and Modernism: The Literary Career of John Edgar Wideman, Jackson MI: University Press of Mississippi, 1989.
  • Doreatha Drummond Mbalia, John Edgar Wideman: Reclaiming the African Personality, Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press; and London: Associated University Presses, 1995.
  • Ulrich Eschborn, Stories of Survival: John Edgar Wideman's Representations of History, WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, Trier, 2011.
  • Ulrich Eschborn, "'To Democratize the Elements of the Historical Record': An Interview with John Edgar Wideman About History in His Work," Callaloo, Volume 33, Number 4, 2010, The Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 982–998.


  1. ^ "Wideman, John". Retrieved 2018-11-02.
  2. ^ "About Conjunctions". Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  3. ^ Thomas Chatterton Williams, "John Edgar Wideman Against the World", The New York Times, January 26, 2017.
  4. ^ "John Edgar Wideman, author". Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  5. ^ Books, Featured Author: John Edgar Wideman, The New York Times, on the Web (accessed October 17, 2011).
  6. ^ John Edgar Wideman, Philadelphia Fire: A Novel, Holt, NY, January 26, 1990, ISBN 978-0-618-50964-5
  7. ^ "John Edgar Wideman, Brothers and Keepers" at Portfolio.
  8. ^ "76th Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize Winners Announced", August 11, 2011.
  9. ^ "2016 Newly Elected Members", American Academy of Arts and Letters.

External links[edit]