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Edward P. Jones, whose fiction features black Catholics, receives national honor


Howard County Library System | Flickr CC by NC ND 2.0

Zelda Caldwell - published on 03/14/19

The author was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The author Edward P. Jones, whose fiction highlights the lives of black Catholics, joins an elite group of writers, artists and musicians with his induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Jones is the author of the short story collections Lost in the City (1992) and  All Aunt Hagar’s Children (2006) and the Pulitzer-prize winning novel The Known World (2003), which tells the story of a former slave who, upon being freed, purchases slaves to work for him.

Raised in Washington, D.C., Jones is a 1972 graduate of College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he first began writing fiction. It was there that he read Dubliners, a collection of short stories by James Joyce, and was inspired to write “Lost in the City,” about his hometown of Washington, D.C

Of Jones’ most recent collection of stories, All Aunt Hagar’s Children, Eve Tushnet wrote that Catholicism provides the setting for his fiction:

The stories aren’t linked by anything other than their setting: black D.C., mostly black Catholic D.C., from the late 19th century to the latter half of the 20th. These people are farmers and porters whose children will be doctors and nurses. Both the poorer and the richer ends of the family are treated with equal respect, even reverence. There are certain recurring situations: men’s mistreatment of women, and how women respond to that or choose not to respond; the slow drifting-apart of marriages (and remarriages, and re-re-remarriages); the in breaking of the supernatural or possibly-supernatural. This last element is basically superstitious rather than religious. Catholicism is an identity, an institution, more a feature of the outer landscape than the inner landscape of the heart.

As a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Jones joins the writers Henry James, Edith Wharton, Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Pearl S. Buck, John Updike and Willa Cather.

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