Essay Analysis Brothers And Keepers Our Time Wideman
At family gatherings, the older folk had the floor, had pride of place, and it was their stories I remember.
INTERVIEWER Could you give me a brief example of one or two of the stories?
Since 2004, Wideman has been Assa Messer Professor and Professor and Africana Studies and English at Brown University.
During the six years that he taught at the University of Pennsylvania, he became their first Black tenured professor, created their first African American studies program, (which he chaired from 1971-1973), and had his first book, , published.
WIDEMAN Brief examples of family stories that I heard when I was three or five or six or seven? They weren’t so much set pieces—though there were of those.
They were more stories about family peculiarities, and characters in the family or in the neighborhood. You had to be there to appreciate it, you had to be part of the fabric of the history for them to have real meaning.
I had solitary instincts when I was very young, and reading was a way to make that time a little more entertaining.My grandfather on my mother’s side told stories about his work and working with the other Italian paperhangers. People would try to out talk or over talk or loud talk one another. There isn’t the energy, there isn’t the call and response. Frank Yerby was around, but I didn’t even know Frank Yerby was African-American.They are not set pieces, but folk art, folk performance. I read all the books that were in the Shadyside Boy’s Club library—books about submarines, dogs, grizzly bears. My mother read fat historical or romantic novels; my father liked to read Westerns, Zane Grey, that kind of stuff. INTERVIEWER Did you read any African American writers then? I liked stuff that had an adventurous edge to it, that took me to places I had no experience of.In his acclaimed Homewood trilogy—the novels (1981)—he evokes the spiritual and physical life of the working-class black community in Pittsburgh where he grew up.Although he left Homewood to attend the University of Pennsylvania on a basketball scholarship, the legacies of family and community remain a rich source of material for his work.INTERVIEWER I wanted to start at the beginning, so to speak.Many of your novels are set in Homewood, where you grew up. JOHN EDGAR WIDEMAN I lived with my mother and father and brothers and sisters some of the time; some of the time my mother and father were feuding, so my mother would take us to live in my grandmother’s house.When I went to my grandmother’s house, not only was my grandmother around, but her mother lived in Homewood, and then there were great aunts; and, of course, there was my grandfather and his friends. WIDEMAN My aunt Geraldine was the unofficial historian and storyteller.So there I was a little kid and I was around every age bracket and not only seeing them, but hearing them talk—being taken around the neighborhood by my grandfather and meeting his cronies. She had all the information about family members and the gossip that came out of the church, because we were very much part of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.In Wideman’s work another life, a different set of possibilities, is always within reach. Wideman describes what he values about this community: “I think it’s the people who make the neighborhood.