Writing to Save a Life

John Edgar Wideman

All the words that follow are my yearning to make some sense out of the American darkness that disconnects colored fathers from sons, a darkness in which sons and fathers lose track of one another.
Writing to Save a Life by John Edgar Wideman (Paperback ISBN 9781786893727) book cover

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The new international prizewinning non-fiction from John Edgar Wideman, one of the standout black American writers of the modern age and winner of the 2017 Prix Femina Étranger

When Emmett Till was murdered aged fourteen for allegedly whistling at a white woman, photographs of his destroyed face became a flashpoint in the civil rights movement. A decade earlier Emmett’s father, Louis, had also been killed – court-martialled and hanged. Though the circumstances could hardly have been more different, behind both deaths stood the same crime, of being black.

In Writing to Save a Life, John Edgar Wideman, born the same year as Emmett Till, investigates the tragic fates of father and son. Mixing research, memoir and imagination, this book is an essential commentary on racism in America – illuminating, humane and profound.

“At times melancholy, at others raw and rippling with rage, Wideman masterfully weaves together memory, history and archival documents … Haunting, provocative, and inspired”
washington Post

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“A mercurial coupling of fact and fiction from a profound writer”
Richard Ford

“A quietly harrowing postscript to the tragedy of Emmett Till … A searching account”
new York Times Book Review

“A great American writer”
Joy Williams

“A genre-defying mix of history, biography, and memoir”
philadelphia Inquirer

John Edgar Wideman

John Edgar Wideman’s books include American Histories, Philadelphia Fire, Brothers and Keepers, Fatheralong, Hoop Roots and Sent for You Yesterday. He is a MacArthur Fellow and has won the PEN/Faulkner Award twice and has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and National Book Award. In 2017, he won the the Prix Femina Étranger for Writing to Save a Life. He divides his time between New York and France.