In the Game pp 221-236 | Cite as


Race and Basketball in the Works of John Edgar Wideman
  • Tracie Church Guzzio


In 1973, following the publication of his first three novels, John Edgar Wideman informed interviewer John O’Brien that he was working on a book about basketball. It seemed a natural direction given Wideman’s background. As a former star on the University of Pennsylvania’s basketball team, Wideman balanced his athletic talents with his scholarly and creative pursuits. His university academic record culminated with a Rhodes scholarship. A stellar achievement by anyone’s measure, Wideman’s success was even more exceptional given his family’s economic status. Growing up on the troubled streets of the Homewood section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, informed his skills both as a player and as a storyteller. A two-time winner of the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction, Wideman has established a career noted for its unflinching portraits of the often violent realities associated with the African American community. Many of Wideman’s novels and autobiographical pieces consider both the triumph and tragedy of urban African American families and the racism that continues to impact their daily lives. His first novel, A Glance Away, was published in 1967 at the height of the civil rights movement. Hurry Home and The Lynchers followed in 1970 and 1973, respectively.


African American Male African American Community African American Family African American Culture Basketball Court 
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  1. 1.
    Philadelphia Fire (1990) interweaves autobiography and fiction in its account of the bombing of the MOVE house by Philadelphia police in 1986. The novel explores the theme of lost sons by interposing the search for an orphan of the bombing with Wideman’s own personal tragedy: the imprisonment of his youngest son, Jake, for murdering a fellow classmate. Published in 1996, Fatheralong follows Wideman and his father as they journey to the South. Wide-man’s personal meditations also structure this work; at the same time he analyzes the impact of race on the lives of African American men. There are few book-length studies of Wideman’s work. In fact, the critical examination of his writing as a whole is slim. See James Coleman’s Blackness and Modernism: The Literary Career of John Edgar Wideman (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1989)Google Scholar
  2. and Bonnie Tusmith’s edition Conversations with John Edgar Wideman (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    John Edgar Wideman, Hoop Roots (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001), 13.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Maurice O. Wallace, Constructing the Black Masculine (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 11.
    James Coleman, Black Male Fiction and the Legacy of Caliban (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001), 3.Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    Greg Tate, Everything But the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture (New York: Broadway, 2003).Google Scholar
  7. 21.
    Michael Eric Dyson, “Be Like Mike: The Pedagogy of Desire,” in Signifyin, Sanctifyin and Slamdunking: A Reader in African American Expressive Culture, ed. Gena Caponi (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), 408.Google Scholar
  8. 25.
    Wideman, Two Cities (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998), 61.Google Scholar

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© Amy Bass 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tracie Church Guzzio

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