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African-American Writer, American Book Award, Homewood, Kent Fellowship, Langston Hughes Medal, Oxford University, PEN/Faulkner Award, Rhodes Scholarship, University of Pennsylvania


John Edgar Wideman was born in Washington D.C. on June 14, 1941, but he has called Pittsburgh his real home. A number of his works reflect the Pennsylvania environments where he has lived, particularly the Homewood district of Pittsburgh and the area near the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He was the second African American to become a Rhodes Scholar. He is also a two-time PEN/Faulkner Award winner. In 2011, he was awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Book Award. At the time of this writing, Wideman is a professor at Brown University.


John Edgar Wideman was born June 14, 1941, in Washington, D.C. His parents were Edgar and Betty French Wideman. He spent most of his childhood living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1965, he married Judith Ann Goldman, with whom he had three children, Daniel Jerome, Jacob Edgar, and Jamila Ann.

Wideman earned a BAin English from the University of Pennsylvania in 1963 and was later given an honorary doctorate. In 1963, he attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He was a professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania from 1966 to 1974. Wideman founded the African American Studies Department at the University of Pennsylvania. He was a professor at the University of Wyoming from 1974 to 1985. He also taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst beginning in 1986, and he was named a Distinguished Professor in 2001. He is currently a professor at Brown University. In 1976, he made a U.S. Department of State lecture tour of Europe and the Near East. His first novel, A Glance Away (1967), was published only one year after he received his degree from Oxford University.

Much of Wideman's novels depict the experiences of African-American urban life. A Glance Away is the story of a day in the life of a drug addict, which reflects the experiences that Wideman witnessed during his youth in Homewood, a predominantly black, lower-income neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Many of his other novels also reflect his time spent in Homewood, including Brothers and Keepers (1984), an autobiography about Wideman's relationship with his younger brother who fell victim to drugs and crime.

Wideman was a Kent Fellow at the University of Iowa in 1966. In 1974, he was inducted into the Philadelphia Big Five Basketball Hall of Fame for the time he played at the University of Pennsylvania. He was given the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction in 1984 for Sent for You Yesterday(1983) and again in 1991 for Philadelphia Fire (1990), which also earned him an American Book Award. He is the only author to receive two PEN/Faulkner Awards. In 1984, he also received a National Book Award nomination for Brothers and Keepers. In 2004, the City College of New York awarded him the Langston Hughes Medal for his body of work with roots in African culture.

Wideman has authored thirteen novels, six collections of short stories, and two memoirs. Fanon (2008) "is part fiction and part biography and memoir." In 2011, Wideman won the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Book Award. At the time of this writing, he works as a professor at Brown University and is a member of the editorial board for Conjunctions, a literary journal.



  • A Glance Away. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967.
  • The Lynchers. New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1973.
  • Sent for You Yesterday. New York: Avon, 1983.
  • Brothers and Keepers. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1984.
  • Philadelphia Fire. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1990.
  • The Cattle Killing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
  • Fanon. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

Short Story Collection

  • God's Gym. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

Sports Memoir

  • Hoop Roots: Basketball, Race, and Love. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

Travel Memoir

  • The Island, Martinque. Washington: National Geographic, 2003.
  • John Edgar Wideman. The Gale Literary Database: Contemporary Authors Online. 4 June 2009. 7 Oct. 2011.
  • "John Edgar Wideman - 2011 Lifetime Achievement." Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. 7 Oct. 2011 <>.
  • Mwamba, Jay. Press Release: Author John Edgar Wideman Receives CCNY Langston Hughes Medal. City College of New York. 26 October 2004. 26 May 2004. <>. Page content replaced.

For More Information:

  • The John Edgar Wideman Literary Society. <>.
Literary Note: 

Novelist John Edgar Wideman grew up in Pittsburgh. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and written about the city in his novelPhiladelphia Fire (1990).

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