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There have been interesting books written about Homewood, but the people make the place” (“Home” 454).In 1965, he married Judith Ann Goldman, with whom he has three children.In addition, he worked as the Assistant Basketball Coach at the University of Pennsylvania from 1968-1972.
Stories are told over time, and so they naturally accrue meanings. INTERVIEWER It wasn’t a sense of escape from something unhappy, then, but simply a longing for something exotic? I spent a lot of time inside my own head, a lot of time sort of staring into space wondering what the hell was going on.
I had solitary instincts when I was very young, and reading was a way to make that time a little more entertaining.
At family gatherings, the older folk had the floor, had pride of place, and it was their stories I remember.
INTERVIEWER Could you give me a brief example of one or two of the stories?
John Edgar Wideman’s profound new book begins, as it must, with the American Civil War.
The first story in this collection, “JB & FD” imagines a kind of conversation between two of the most important figures of that conflict, the white anti-slavery crusader John Brown, hanged in December 1859 for treason, murder, and inciting slave insurrection, and the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who had himself been born enslaved.INTERVIEWER Since there are competing oral versions, where do truth and imagination combine to create a full story? In Haiti, as I understand it, storytelling and history itself are not a business of necessarily elucidating facts or the truth of an incident, but finding the version that is most entertaining and therefore will get retold and live in immortality. There were a lot of books in my house, so that was another source. Movies and TV were much less a part of daily life—there was nothing to grab the imagination.WIDEMAN Truth becomes a function of the choral nature of the exchanges. When I read that about Haitian folklore and history, it struck home—it’s exactly what I observed in my own family. Books were my Internet, my TV, my movies all rolled into one.In (2001), he has returned to a childhood passion: basketball.Wideman sat down for a first interview in his small, book-lined office at the University of Massachusettes, where he has taught since 1986.Since 2004, Wideman has been Assa Messer Professor and Professor and Africana Studies and English at Brown University.During the six years that he taught at the University of Pennsylvania, he became their first Black tenured professor, created their first African American studies program, (which he chaired from 1971-1973), and had his first book, , published.In his acclaimed Homewood trilogy—the novels (1981)—he evokes the spiritual and physical life of the working-class black community in Pittsburgh where he grew up.Although he left Homewood to attend the University of Pennsylvania on a basketball scholarship, the legacies of family and community remain a rich source of material for his work.Wideman graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania before becoming the second African American ever to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, allowing him to work toward his doctorate at Oxford University.He has taught at the University of Iowa’s Creative Writing Workshop, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Wyoming at Laramie, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and as a visiting writer at many colleges.