Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Leon Richard Forrest  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction Non-Fiction

Born: 1937 in Chicago, Illinois

Sites:


Illinois Connection

Forrest was born in Chicago and grew up on the city's South Side. He went to school at Wendell Phillips, Hyde Park Academy, Wilson Junior College and attended the University of Chicago. He taught African-American studies and English at Northwestern University.

Biographical and Professional Information

Leon Forrest was an African American novelist. His novels concerned mythology, history, and Chicago. Forrest attended Hyde Park High School, Wilson Junior College, Roosevelt University, and the University of Chicago. He served in Germany in the U.S. Army. After his term in the service, Forrest returned to Chicago determined to pursue a career as a writer.His first novel, There is a Tree More Ancient than Eden, came out in 1973. His third novel Two Wings to Veil My Face won several awards. His fourth book, Divine Days, won the Chicago Sun-Times Book of the Year Award for local fiction. He wrote and edited for several South Side community newspapers, and was a professor of English and African-American studies at Northwestern University for 24 years. He also served as president of the Society of Midland Authors.His stream-of-consciousness writing concerned the legacy of slavery and earned him a place on Chicago magazine’s Most Important Chicagoans of the 20th Century. April 14, 1985 was declared as - Leon Forrest Day in Chicago by then Chicago Mayor, Harold Washington.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

There Is a Tree More Ancient Than Eden (Phoenix Fiction)
ISBN: 0226257215

University of Chicago Press. 2001

Leon Forrest, acclaimed author of Divine Days, uses a remarkable verbal intensity to evoke human tragedy, injustice, and spirituality in his writing. As Toni Morrison has said, "All of Forrest's novels explore the complex legacy of Afro-Americans. Like an insistent tide this history . . . swells and recalls America's past. . . . Brooding, hilarious, acerbic and profoundly valued life has no more astute observer than Leon Forrest." All of that is on display here in two novels that give readers a breathtaking view of the human experience, filled with humor and pathos.

The Bloodworth Orphans (Phoenix Fiction)
ISBN: 0226257223

University of Chicago Press. 2001

Leon Forrest, acclaimed author of Divine Days, uses a remarkable verbal intensity to evoke human tragedy, injustice, and spirituality in his writing. As Toni Morrison has said, "All of Forrest's novels explore the complex legacy of Afro-Americans. Like an insistent tide this history . . . swells and recalls America's past. . . . Brooding, hilarious, acerbic and profoundly valued life has no more astute observer than Leon Forrest." All of that is on display here in a novel that give readers a breathtaking view of the human experience, filled with humor and pathos.

Two Wings to Veil My Face: A Novel
ISBN: 155921192X

Moyer Bell Ltd. 1997

A ninety-one-year-old African American woman tells her story of passage from slavery to freedom to her twenty-one-year-old grandson

Divine Days
ISBN: 0393312216

W. W. Norton & Company. 1995

A unanimous chorus of critical acclaim greeted this powerful novel last year―one of the most significant works of African-American fiction since Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.

This huge oratorio of a novel unfolds over seven days in the life of Joubert Jones, an aspiring playwright making ends meet tending bar at his Aunt Eloise's Night Lounge. A Rabelaisian cast of characters and a Shakespearean range of voices crowd the pages of this book, an infinitely rich and suggestive tapestry of Black-American life and identity.

The Furious Voice For Freedom Essays O
ISBN: 155921080X

Asphodel Press. 2010

Essays on Life. Forrest's writing is evocative, vivid, even poetic. -Library Journal.

Meteor in the Madhouse
ISBN: 0810151146

Triquarterly. 2001

In the wake of his watershed novel Divine Days, Leon Forest began an even more ambitious project, a collection of novellas that he hoped would be the culmination of his life's work and of the fictional world of Forest County, which he had created in his five earlier novels. Although slowed by devastating illness in 1997, Forrest's labor on his masterwork continued

while the novel assumed a focus tighter than he had originally intended, Forrest felt just before his untimely death that he had succeeded in bringing a unified vision to the manuscript of Meteor in the Madhouse. Meteor in the Madhouse is a novel made up of five interconnected novellas framed by an account of the last days in the life of journalist Joubert Antoine Jones, a character immortalized in Divine Days. The central relationship in the novel is that of Joubert and his adoptive kin and fellow writer Leonard Foster. A symbol of the struggle for freedom and equality, Leonard's search for truth -- leading him into political agitation, cultish religion, and eventual death from drug addiction -- immerses Joubert in feelings of guilt and frustration when he is unable to save his friend and mentor. As Joubert reflects on Leonard's death, he is both haunted and rejuvenated by the characters and episodes of their shared past. We meet the women in Joubert's life: foster mother Lucasta Jones, whose aesthetic and erotic potential goes unfulfilled

Lucasta's sister Gussie, irrepressible in her zest for life

and Jessie Ma Fay Battle Barker, known for her indomitable spirit and largesse. Joubert recalls his visits with Leonard and Leonard's further breakdown in the face of humorous memories from their youth: the behavior of theDeep Brown Study Eggheads who inhabited the wonderfully diverse rooming house near Joubert's alma mater

and the characters fre- quenting Fountain's House of the Dead -- a funeral home by day and a brothel by night. As Joubert and his relations tackle the forces of love, lust, alcohol, drugs, violence, and family, Joubert becomes the symbol of the soul's search for authenticity. With introductions by editors John G. Cawelti and Merle Drown, Meteor in the Madhouse emerges as Forrest's most vivid portrayal of the great diversity of urban African American life.


Awards

-- Two Wings to Veil My Face

Society of Midland Authors Award for adult fiction

DuSable Museum Certificate of Merit and Achievement in Fiction

Carl Sandburg Award

Friends of Literature PrizeDivine Days

Book of the Year Award for local fiction, Chicago Sun-Times Other Awards

Illinois Author of the Year, Illinois Association of Teachers of English, 1996

Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 2013