Discover the unique mind and humane vision of an under-recognized American author. Encompassing themes of race, education, fame, law, and America’s past and future, these essays are James Alan McPherson at his most prescient and invaluable.
Born in segregated 1940s Georgia, McPherson graduated from Harvard Law School only to give up law and become a writer. In 1978, he became the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. But all the while, McPherson was also writing and publishing nonfiction that stand beside contemporaries such as James Baldwin and Joan Didion, as this collection amply proves.
These essays range from McPherson’s profile of comedian Richard Pryor on the cusp of his stardom; a moving tribute to his mentor, Ralph Ellison; a near-fatal battle with viral meningitis; and the story of how McPherson became a reluctant landlord to an elderly Black woman and her family.
There are meditations on family as the author travels to Disneyland with his daughter, on the nuances of a neighborhood debate about naming a street after Malcolm X or Dr. Martin Luther King, and, throughout, those connections that make us most deeply human—including connections between writer and listener.
This collection is for anyone seeking a better understanding of our world and a connection to a wise and wickedly funny writer who speaks with forceful relevance and clarity across the decades.