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October 31, 2020
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African American author Authors & Poets

A. J. Verdelle

A. J. Verdelle  (born 1960 in Washington, D.C.), is an African-American novelist who burst upon the literary scene in 1995 with her debut novel, The Good Negress, a coming-of-age story that became one of the most acclaimed novels of the 1990s.

Verdelle is the daughter of A. Y. and Patricia Howell Jones, both of whom were native Washingtonians. On her father’s side, she is a fourth-generation Washingtonian, making her a descendant of the sequestered and little studied freedmen’s community that burgeoned after the Maafa (slavery) and reconstruction in the nation’s capital, in the 19th century. Verdelle attended a private Catholic girls’ high school, La Reine, in Suitland, MD, a Prince George’s County suburb of Washington, D.C. She graduated in 1982 from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in Political Science, an M.A. in Applied Statistics in 1986, and earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Bard College, in the Hudson Valley of NY, in 1993. After receiving her graduate degree, Verdelle moved to Brooklyn, New York, and founded her own statistics consulting firm in 1988.

Verdelle’s prize-winning first novel, The Good Negress, was published to considerable acclaim in 1995, and released in paperback in 1996. The Good Negress received the rare endorsement by Nobel laureate, Toni Morrison, who called the novel “truly extraordinary.”

Verdelle currently teaches in the MFA program at Lesley University. Her awards include: Vursell Distinguished Fiction Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; Whiting Award in fiction; Bunting Fellowship; NEA Critical Studies Award; finalist for PEN/Faulkner Award; Los Angeles Times Book Prize; IMPAC/Dublin International Book Prize.

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