UMass Amherst English Professor John Edgar Wideman Wins Short Story Award

June 3, 1998

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AMHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts English professor John Edgar Wideman has won the $30,000 Rea Award for the Short Story.

Sponsored annually by the Dungannon Foundation, the Rea Award was established in 1986 to honor a living United States or Canadian writer who has made a significant contribution to the short story form. The only award in the U.S. exclusively for the short story, it is not given for a specific title, but rather "for literary power, originality, and influence on the genre," according to the Dungannon Foundation.

In honoring Wideman, this year’s panel of jurors – writers Grace Paley, Tim O’Brien, and Gina Berriault – said: "Profoundly honest, eloquently impassioned, the stories of John Edgar Wideman guide us to a place we’ve never been, into that unexplored area of America’s heartland for which we’ve had no true compass before his own. More than compassionate, Wideman’s stories are like gospel songs sung by a hundred voices, offering praise to life itself."

Wideman’s short story collections include "Damballah" (Avon, 1981), "Fever" (Henry Hold, 1989), "The Stories of John Edgar Wideman" (Pantheon, 1992), and "All Stories Are True" (Vintage 1993).

The recipient of many honors and awards, Wideman has also received the PEN/Faulkner Award twice, once in 1984 for his novel "Sent For You Yesterday" and again in 1990 for his novel "Philadelphia Fire." He was awarded the Lannan Literary Fellowship for Fiction in 1991 and the MacArthur Award (commonly known as a "genius grant") in 1993. In 1996, he edited the annual anthology, "The Best American Short Stories" (Houghton Mifflin). His next novel, "Two Cities," will be published in September 1998 by Houghton Mifflin.

Wideman has taught at the University since 1986.