Jeffery Renard Allen

Award winning American poet, essayist, short story writer, and novelist. Winner of the P.E.N. Discovery Prize and a Whiting Writer’s Award.

  • Allen was awarded The P.E.N. Discovery Prize. His widely celebrated novel, Rails Under My Back, won The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Fiction. His story collection Holding Pattern won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.
  • He has also been awarded a Whiting Writer’s Award, a support grant in Innovative Literature from Creative Capital, The Chicago Public Library’s Twenty First Century Award, Recognition for Pioneering Achievements in Fiction from the African American Literature and Culture Association, the 2003 Charles Angoff Award for Fiction from The Literary Review, and special citations from the Society for Midlands Authors and the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation.
  • Allen holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago and is currently a faculty member in the writing program at the University of Virginia. He has taught in the writing program at Columbia University and for many distinguished writers’ conferences and programs around the world.


Song of the Shank   Holding Pattern   Rails Under My Back   Stellar Places

[A] masterly new novel. . . . It sagely explores themes of religion, class, art and genius, and introduces elements of magic realism . . . resulting in the kind of imaginative work only a prodigiously gifted risk-taker could produce.

- The New York Times Book Review (front cover)

The prodigiously talented Jeffery Renard Allen is without a doubt one of our most important writers.

- Junot Diaz

Jeffery Renard Allen works language to make himself smarter, the readers smarter, the language smarter.

- John Edgar Wideman

…Jeff Allen has indeed given exhaustively of himself in the often-astonishing performance of this epic work.

- Charles Johnson, on Rails Under My Back