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McPherson, James Alan  

Joshunda Sanders

short story writer and essayist, was born in Savannah, Georgia, to James Allen McPherson, a master electrician, and Mable Smalls McPherson, a domestic servant.

McPherson grew up attending segregated public schools and sometimes played hooky from school to read at the “colored” branch of the local Carnegie library. As a teenager, he worked as a dining car waiter on passenger trains—an exclusively African American profession that figures prominently in some of his work. “The well-known short story, ‘A Solo Song: For Doc’ (from his first collection, 1969's Hue and Cry), for example, is a character study of two railroad waiters of different generations. McPherson continued to work on the trains of the Great Northern Railroad while attending Morris Brown College, a private, predominately African American institution in Georgia” (in “James Alan McPherson,” Contemporary Black Biography, no. 70 [2009 He was able to ...

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McPherson, James Alan  

Jon Wallace

and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for Elbow Room (1978). James Alan McPherson was born in Savannah, Georgia, son of James Allen and Mable (Smalls) McPherson. He attended Morgan State University (1963–1964), Morris Brown College (BA, 1965), Harvard University (LLB, 1968), and the University of Iowa (MFA, 1969). He has taught English at the University of Iowa Law School (1968–1969), the University of California, Santa Cruz (1969–1970), Morgan State University (1975–1976), the University of Virginia (1976–1981), and the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop (1981—).

McPherson published his first book of short stories, Hue and Cry (1969 shortly after graduating from Harvard Law School which may explain his lawyerly approach to storytelling Like a good counsel he knows how to make the strongest rhetorical case for each of his ...