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Introducing beloved teacher and writer James Alan McPherson's work to a new audience

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe
"His name belongs alongside James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison."
Anthony Walton

James Alan McPherson was a master writer of short stories and essays. He was the first Black American to receive a Pulitzer Prize in fiction, and he was an influential and beloved teacher at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. He passed away in 2016 at age 72.

While his work was influential in his lifetime, author and Senior Writer in Residence at Bowdoin College Anthony Walton believes he hasn't gotten the attention he deserves. That's what inspired him to curate a posthumous collection of essays On Becoming An American Writer. Walton and McPherson's daughter, Rachel, join this episode of Talk of Iowa to discuss the collection and McPherson's legacy.


  • Rachel McPherson, ESL and Shakespeare teacher based in Iowa City and new commissioner to Iowa City Parks and Rec and James Alan McPherson's daughter
  • Anthony Walton, author and Senior Writer in Residence at Bowdoin College, curator of On Becoming An American Writer
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Caitlin Troutman is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio