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John Edgar Wideman's picture

John Edgar Wideman


USA flag (1941 - )

John Edgar Wideman's life is as dramatic as any of his brooding, Faulknerian novels. Born in Pittsburgh to a black working-class family, he became an African-American golden boy - a Rhodes scholar and basketball star, as talented on the court as he was brilliant in the classroom, and the subject of a 1963 Look magazine article titled "The Astonishing John Wideman." As a boy, he planned to leave his background behind for a dazzling future as a novelist, academic and intellectual, but family and politics intervened. Wideman came to see the complex problems of African-American life as inescapable. His brother, Robby, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison (the victim was killed by Robby's partner in a robbery) in 1976. Wideman's struggle to come to terms with his brother's deeds and their consequences became the subject of his memoir, "Brothers and Keepers." Then, in 1986, his own 16-year-old, mixed-race son stabbed and killed a classmate during a field trip. Articles that subsequently appeared in Vanity Fair and Esquire indicated the boy had long been emotionally troubled and characterized Wideman as filled with controlled racial anger.
 
John Edgar Wideman recommends
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What We Lose (2017)
Zinzi Clemmons
"An intimate narrative that often makes another life as believable as your own."

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