Oct. 11, 2007
Pultizer-winning fiction writer Edward P. Jones presents reading Oct. 19
Pultizer Prize-winning fiction writer Edward P. Jones (photo, left), an Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Iowa Writers' Workshop, will present a free reading at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, in Room 101 of the Becker Communication Studies Building on the University of Iowa campus.
Jones' novel "The Known World," a tale of antebellum slave owners in the U.S. South, won not only the Pulitzer Prize but also the National Book Critics Circle award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the Lannan Literary Award. He also received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2004.
His first collection of stories, "Lost in the City," set in his hometown of Washington, D.C., won the PEN/Hemingway Award and was short listed for the National Book Award. His second collection, "All Aunt Hagar's Children," was a finalist for the Pen/Faulkner Award.
"It just so happens that I was born and raised in Washington," Jones said. "Had I been born in Chicago, or San Antonio, the streets and places would have figured into whatever I wrote. Just so happens that it's Washington, D.C."
In a National Public Radio interview, Jones explained the title of his new collection. "In the Bible, it's Abraham's concubine, his slave. The phrase, 'all Aunt Hagar's children' is one my mother used for black people. The novel I wrote, 'The Known World,' was going to be titled 'Aunt Hagar's Children,' because when I started it, it was going to be about the black people that the slave owners owned. But as the years went ahead . . . the original title didn't work. So I never throw anything away, and I found a use for that title here."
"The other things she would say, people weren't black at that time, they were 'colored.' So it was either 'colored' or 'all Aunt Hagar's children.' It was just a phrase she used ... it's along the lines of what Penny says in the title story. She says, 'All the bad things they do to all Aunt Hagar's children.' That's sort of the same way my mother would've spoken those words."
Jennifer Reese wrote for Entertainment Weekly: "In his muscular, reality-based fiction, Edward P. Jones chronicles the African-American experience -- on the streets of Washington, D.C., in loving and desperately loveless homes, on antebellum plantations, in prison. The 14 tales in his 'All Aunt Hagar's Children' are substantial and populous, explicitly concerned with the ever-pertinent question: How do we balance duty to others with our own needs?"
A review by Michael Upchurch in the Seattle Times concluded, "Jones shows moments of great folly, moments of great decency, and plenty of scramble-toned moments in between, in a big, roomy book packed with vivid samplings of human tragedy and comedy."
The UI established the Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships Program in 1978-79 based on a bequest from the late Ida Beam of Vinton, Iowa, who willed her family farm to the UI Foundation. The proceeds from the farm's sale enabled the UI to establish a fund that brings top scholars in a variety of fields to the university for lectures and discussions.
The Writers' Workshop is a graduate program of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
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