Fiction Writer · Nonfiction Writer
Born February 3, 1907, New York, New York
Died October 16, 1997, Austin, Texas
James Michener seems to me a true American classic--his enormous success has not hardened his heart but seems to have had quite the reverse effect upon him. Surely he has touched every man, woman and child in the United States over the decades.-Joyce Carol Oates
James Michener was an author of novels, short fiction, and nonfiction, much of which was based on his extensive research and travel. He sold more than 75 million books and is considered one of the most prolific and popular writers of the 20 century. His most popular novels, such as Hawaii, Centennial, Texas, and Chesapeake, were constructed as epics, tracing the history of a region from primordial times to the recent past. Typically, Michener focused on a few families, exploring their place among the region's different cultures and the impact of major historical events upon them. Establishing this pattern, Michener's first work of fiction, Tales of the South Pacific, drew on the research he had done as a naval historian during World War II. This set of short stories earned Michener a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1948 and served as the model for Rodgers and Hammerstein's popular musical, South Pacific. Much of the author's nonfiction, such as books about Japanese art, and political memoirs, likewise drew on his travels. He taught cultural diversity. Michener was also actively involved in public service. He ran for Congress from Bucks County in 1962, served as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention from 1967 to 1968, and advised the government on issues ranging from the space program to postage stamps. Michener gave away more than $100 million to museums, schools, libraries and other institutions, including the James A. Michener Art Museum. In 2007, the Museum commemorated the 100th anniversary of Michener's birth with the exhibition James A. Michener:Traveler/Citizen/Writer.
James A. Michener at the desk of his Bucks County home. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.