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Sat, 06.14.1941

John Edgar Wideman, Writer, and Educator born

John Edgar Wideman

*John Edgar Wideman was born on this date in 1941. He is a Black writer and educator.

From Washington, D.C., shortly before his first birthday, his family moved to Homewood, a black community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that has been the locale of much of his writings. He attended Peabody High, one of Pittsburgh’s best secondary schools. There, he excelled in his studies as well as in sports.

Wideman was awarded a Benjamin Franklin Scholarship by the University of Pennsylvania, where he won a creative writing prize and earned membership in Phi Beta Kappa. He also won All-Ivy League status as a forward on the basketball team and successfully competed on the track team. In 1963, he won a Rhodes scholarship and spent the year at Oxford University’s New Collect, where he received a Bachelor of Philosophy degree.

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. Jamila Wideman later became a professional basketball player in the Women's National Basketball Association and the Israeli League. In 1988, his son Jacob was convicted of a 1986 murder in Arizona. After over 40 years in prison, his sentence was commuted, and he was released on July 2, 2019.

Returning to the United States, he began his writing carrier with A Glance Away [1967]. His novels include Hurry Home [1970], Hiding Place [1981], Sent for you Yesterday [1984], Philadelphia Fire [1990], The Cattle Killing [1996], and Two Cities [1998].  His short story collections include Damballah [1981], Fever [1989], The Stories of John Edgar Wideman [1992], and All Stories Are True [1993]. He also authorizes a memoir, Brothers and Keepers [1996], and numerous essays.

Wideman has been honored with many awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (twice: once for Sent for you Yesterday and a second time for Philadelphia Fire); the American Book Award, the Lannan Literary Fellowship for Fiction; a MacArthur Foundation Fellows Award; and the National Magazine Editors Prize for Short Fiction, among others.

In 2004 he married journalist Catherine Nedonchelle and currently lives with her and her son, Romeo Alexander, in New York on the Lower East Side.  He released God's Gym (short stories), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2005.  In 2014, after a decade at Brown University and nearly 50 years in academia, Wideman became an emeritus professor.   He has since published a hybrid work of fiction and nonfiction that explores the father's life of Emmet Till, entitled Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File (2016). He published a collection of stories, American Histories, in 2018.

To be a Writer


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