Born: January 13, 1940
Ohio connection: Birth
Born in Cincinnati, son of Edmund Valentine II (an engineer) and Delilah Teddlie (a psychologist). Edmund Valentine III White has been regarded as the unofficial spokesman of the social, cultural, and political aspirations of the gay community. A novelist at age five, White has since authored several critically acclaimed fiction and non-fiction works. After graduating with a major in Chinese from the University of Michigan in 1962, the twenty-two year old moved to New York City. Scarred as a child by his parents’ divorce and his struggle to reconcile himself with his sexuality, White felt rejuvenated by his new found independence. Within a short time, White became an editor in the book division of Time-Life, Inc., a position he retained until 1970. In 1963, The Blue Boy in Black, White’s first drama, was produced Off-Broadway. This play focused on a black maid employed in the home of a successful white author. After breaking up his marriage, she becomes his second wife and goes on to her own career as a novelist. Forgetting Elena (1973), White’s first published novel, details a young Fire Island amnesiac’s struggle to discover not only his own identity and those of the older men around him, but the purpose of his presence in alien surroundings. Written in 1969, Forgetting Elena was initially rejected by twenty editors. It finally caught the interest of Random House’s Anne Freedgood, who sought to increase its marketability by having White revise it as a mystery. Throughout the five-year period between 1969 and 1974, White labored on Woman Reading Pascal, a novel that was ultimately rejected by numerous editors, and still remains unpublished. Written at the time that he resigned his post as a staff writer for Time-Life books, the novel, intended as homage to James’ Portrait of a Lady, chronicled the adventures of a straight blonde heiress who becomes involved with both a lesbian and a gay man. Wounded but undaunted, White put his effort into two entirely different works, The Joy of Gay Sex and Nocturnes for the King of Naples. In 1983, White moved to Europe, which provided the inspiration for a novel and a biography. Caracole, published in 1985, chronicled the exploits of Gabriel, a naïve French provincial who, upon arriving in the capital, is sought out by numerous Parisian socialites. White’s biography of Jean Genet, published in 1993, is considered to be the definitive work on the life of this famous writer. Returning to the United States in 1990, White learned that several of his closest friends had died from AIDS related illnesses. Since the year 2000, he has published several further books, including The Married Man and The Flâneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris.
Hopwood Awards, University of Michigan for fiction and drama, (1961, 1962). Fellowships from the Ingram Merrill Foundation (1976, 1978). The Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, (1982). A Guggenheim Fellowship, (1983). Chevalier (later Officier) de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, (1993). National Book Critics Circle Award for Genet, (1994). Critics 1 Choice Award, San Francisco Review of Books, for Skinned Alive (1995-96) Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1997). Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1999). Honorary doctorate, State University of New York at Oneonta, (2000). Prize of the festival of Deauville (France) for entire body of work, (2000). Ferro-Grumley Award from the Publishing Triangle for The Married Man, (2001).