The third lecturer in the University’s annual series to have received the MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” Wideman was also the first writer to earn the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction twice, once for the novel Sent for You Yesterday (1985) and again for Philadelphia Fire (1991). This was just one of the numerous international awards Wideman has received for his many works of fiction and non-fiction.
During his talk at URI, Wideman will read selections from his award-winning memoir, Brothers and Keepers (1984), the book that provides insights on race, class, community and identity, while comparing the divergent trajectories of his own life with that of his brother, who was convicted and sentenced to life for murder. His more recent pieces, Fatheralong: A Meditation on Fathers and Sons (Pantheon, 1994), and Hoop Roots (2001) remind readers that the memoir can still retain credibility in a time of controversy about the genre.
A professor of English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Wideman received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also won All-Ivy League status as a forward on the basketball team. He then was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study philosophy at Oxford University’s New College. Wideman spent a year as a Kent Fellow at the University of Iowa’s writers’ workshop, where he completed his first novel, A Glance Away (1967). Other novels include “Hurry Home,” “The Lynchers,” “Hiding Place” and “The Cattle Killing.” His short story collections are “Damballah,” “Fever,” “The Stories of John Edgar Wideman” and “All Stories Are True.”
Wideman’s articles on Malcom X, Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, Michael Jordan, Emmett Till, Thelonius Monk and women’s professional basketball have appeared in The New Yorker, Vogue, Esquire, Emerge and The New York Times Magazine, among others.