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James A. McPherson (James Alan McPherson) Biography

(1943– ), (James Alan McPherson), Hue and Cry, Elbow Room

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Harriet Martineau Biography to John McTaggart (John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart) Biography

African-American story-writer, born in Savannah, Georgia, educated at Morris Brown College (Atlanta), Morgan State College (Baltimore), Harvard, and Iowa Writers' Workshop. His considerable reputation rests upon two highly accomplished volumes of short stories, Hue and Cry (1969; Pulitzer Prize) and Elbow Room (1977), which received unstinting praise from Ralph Ellison. McPherson's strengths lie in his angle on quotidian black life, city or country, past or present. In Hue and Cry stories like ‘On Trains’ and ‘A Solo Song: For Doc’ assume the voice of legendary black Pullman porters and waiters, historic elders from a classic American railway era; ‘Cabbages and Kings’ calls up the era of Civil Rights in terms of a remembered love gone awry across racial divides. In Elbow Room a story like ‘Why I Like Country Music’ has a black New Yorker harking back to his Southern boyhood in the image of a girl he once partnered at a country dance; ‘The Story of A Dead Man’ recreates a feisty, black, mythic figure out of black folklore; and ‘I Am An American’ tells of a young American black couple making their ‘innocents abroad’ entrance into the white metropolitan world of London. McPherson's distinctiveness lies in his command of an irony full of nuance yet never intrusive.

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