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James Alan McPherson
Contributor Profile

mcphers picture Writing in "On Becoming an American Writer," in the December, 1978, Atlantic, James Alan McPherson sketched out what may be his philosophy of life. "I believe that if one can experience diversity, touch a variety of its people, laugh at its craziness, distill wisdom from its tragedies, and attempt to synthesize all this inside oneself without going crazy, one will have earned the right to call oneself 'citizen of the United States.'" Born in 1943 in Savannah, Georgia, McPherson was educated at Morris Brown College, Harvard Law School, the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop, and Yale Law School. He has taught English at the University of California-Santa Cruz, Harvard University, Morgan State University, and the University of Virginia, and has also lectured in Japan at Meiji University and Chiba University. McPherson is now a professor of English at the University of Iowa.

One of America's most venerated fiction writers, McPherson has garnered an impressive collection of accolades, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1973 and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1978 (for his collection of stories, Elbow Room). His other books are Hue and Cry (1969), Railroad (1977), and Crabcakes (1996), and he has also edited special issues of the Iowa Review and Ploughshares. The Atlantic published his first story, "Gold Coast," in 1968 and made him a contributing editor in 1969. His writing for The Atlantichas included short stories, book reviews, and non-fiction pieces (among them "Indivisible Man," co-written with Ralph Ellison). His work has appeared in twenty-seven journals and magazines, seven short-story anthologies, and, most recently, The Best American Essays 1995. In 1995 McPherson was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


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