Edward Jones- 2008
Pulitzer-prize winning novelist and short story writer
History Through a Unique Perspective
By Morgan Thoeny
Edward P. Jones has three well known writings: the short stories of Lost in the City, All Aunt Hagar’s Children, and his novel, which earned the Pulitzer prize in 2004, The Known World. Jones is known for his writing about the segregated Washington D.C, from when he grew up there during the fifties and sixties (Als). Edward Jones made a great impact on our world today, he has positively changed black history, which aids how others learn and understand it. He used his past and struggles to fuel how he retells history in his own unique way.
During Jones’s childhood, while his family was constantly moving homes, he was still able to get an education and excel in his learning (Als). Before he became a ‘full-time-writer’ he had several jobs, such as working for Science Magazine, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and being a proofreader for Tax Notes. Since he had lost his last job of proofreading in 2002, he then began writing, and one year later he published his novel, The Known World. Jones who might not have had all the luxuries in life when growing up, did not let that get in the way of his desire. He took these events and used them as tools to sculpt his own novels, that retell black history, through his eyes.
When writing his novel, Jones had a unique way of adding in details. Instead of using broad facts from a textbook, Jones used details from his personal life, and stories his relatives would share about their lives, of how segregation and slavery affected them. In an article from New York Times, they discuss that, “[the] last address, the home of a domestic worker named Roxanne Stapleton who is suddenly and mysteriously struck blind, was one of Jones’s childhood homes” (Scott). His use of personal detail makes his work feel more realistic, because it is not just a randomized address thrown into a book; it is a real place that is assigned to this character. In addition, in the first chapter of his novel he writes about the characters eating mudpies and dirt. Now, the reasoning behind his character’s action might not have been the same as the stories he has heard, but Jones is using real life examples to bring his novel to life. He does well in adding key details that make the novel very realistic.
The way he writes his novel gives the feel of being inside an actual person’s thoughts. It feels as though anything that happens to a character in the novel, could most definitely happen in real life. Jones decided the people that he created are real enough, that the information he has accumulated is enough to allow him to lie and get away with it. Interviewers state that the story seems so true because these characters have lived in his head for years (NPR interview). This gives the illusion that you are reading journal entries from the time that the novel takes place. With his unique style of writing, and the topics he chooses to write about, he does a very nice job at telling history in his own words, allowing for others to understand some very important concepts through the enjoyment of reading a novel.
Jones does well by using his work to retell history so that it is understood, but unfortunately, there are still people who have trouble appreciating his work, just because of the color of his skin. In an interview with Hilton, Jones explains, “Ten or so years ago, someone asked me to come to her class and answer questions about Lost in the City. This one white woman said she had trouble feeling or caring about any people who weren’t like her. You hear that and it’s like somebody slapped you in the face” (Als). It is upsetting that people can still have no respect for black people- even after attending an entire class where they are learning about black history, and all the struggles they have faced.
To summarize, Edward P Jones has contributed greatly to our world by retelling history so that others can learn from it and understand it better. From starting out as someone who did not have much money and who moved around a lot, he kept going with his school and worked hard. He was able to overcome and be an inspiration for many people, as he went on to use his gift of writing.
Als, Hilton. Interview. “The Art of Fiction No. 222.” The Paris Review, 6 June 2020, www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6283/the-art-of-fiction-no-222-edward-p-jones.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia. "Edward P. Jones". Encyclopedia Britannica, 1 Oct. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Edward-P-Jones. Accessed 29 January 2021.
“Edward P. Jones Biography.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, www.notablebiographies.com/newsmakers2/2005-Fo-La/Jones-Edward-P.html.
Scott, A. O. “Edward P. Jones's Carefully Quantified Literary World.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Aug. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/08/11/books/review/edward-p-jones-americans-known-world-lost-in-the-city.html.
“'The Known World'.” NPR, NPR, 28 Oct. 2003, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1476600.