Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

John Wideman

  • Rating: ****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $149.00
  • Date: Copyright 1992. Released 1992. Descriptors: Authors. Wideman, John. American literature . Black authors.
  • Production Information: Live action. Directed by Mateo Bellinelli. Color. Also available in 3/4 inch. 26 min.
  • Production Company: RTSI (Switzerland)
  • Available from: California Newsreel 149 9th St., #420 San Francisco, CA 94103 (415)621-6196
  • Cataloging: 813.54 Wideman, John Edgar||Afro-American authors - Biography||Authors, American - Biography
  • Print Entry #: 4:1043
  • Reviewer: Clayton J. Delery

    Contrary to what one might expect, this video is less about John Wideman's art than it is about the problems his work poses for him in terms of his race and identity. Wideman, an African-American writer, grew up in the Homewood ghetto in Pittsburgh but eventually found himself an acclaimed novelist with a teaching position in a northeastern university. His colleagues are white, his students are white, and the people who buy his books are, by and large, white. While he admits that he would like to reach everyone through his art, he feels that his primary audience is somehow denied him because professional, social, and economic structures make it hard for him to reach them. This is a dilemma that Wideman believes he shares with other black writers. Moreover, Wideman seems to feel acutely a sense of being pigeonholed when he is called one of the finest black writers in America, as the adjective somehow suggests that he and his colleagues are being simultaneously praised and called into question - affirmed for being good at what they do, while implicated by the suggestion that they are not, nor will ever be, known simply as important writers.

    The tensions between race, culture, audience, marketplace, and academia are very complicated ones, and Wideman discusses them with a degree of thoughtfulness and subtlety that is admirable. Add to that a high standard in photography and editing, and the result is an interesting, compelling video well suited for adolescent and adult audiences.

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