Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  John R. Powers  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: November 30, 1945 in Chicago, Illinois

Died: 2013 in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

-- John R. Powers on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Powers was born in Chicago and lived there most of his life. He attended Brother Rice High School and Northwestern and Loyola Universities. He also taught at Northeastern.

Biographical and Professional Information

John Powers was a novelist and a renowned motivational speaker. He bagan his career as an elementary and junior high school teacher. His work, ''Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?'' was selected for inclusion on the list of Best Books for Young Adults in 1975 and went on to become a hit musical. Powers produced the Chicago show full-time, as well as other productions of the play in other major cities. Powers has also produced and starred in a one-man show called ''Life’s Not Fair . . . So What?''

Powers holds a Ph.D. in Communications from Northwestern University and was a professor of speech and performing arts at Northeastern Illinois University. During this time, he also created and hosted a number of specials for Chicago public television. He received undergraduate degrees in sociology from Loyola University and is a graduate of Brother Rice High School in Chicago.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

The Last Catholic in America (Loyola Classics)
ISBN: 0829421300

Loyola Classics. 2005

“It is fast-moving and often downright funny.”—New York Times
“He has recaptured childish innocence and presented it with adult enlightenment—plus a touch of cynicism—yet never with irreverence.”
Book-of-the-Month Club News
First confession and its terrors. Eighty-four first graders in a classroom ruled by just one nun. The agony and the ecstasy of Lent. The dubious honor of being declared the worst altar server ever. Dinah Shore and the Blessed Virgin haunting your dreams. This is Eddie Ryan’s world as he grows up in the intensely Catholic world of South-Side Chicago’s St. Bastion’s parish in the 1950s. In this classic coming-of-age novel, John Powers draws readers into Eddie Ryan’s world with deep affection and bittersweet humor.

Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? (Loyola Classics)
ISBN: 0829421432

Loyola Classics. 2005

“Hilarious, touching, beautiful . . .” —Detroit News
“A totally enjoyable novel with at least one laugh on every page.” —Fresno Bee
“. . . you’ll never forget it.” —Publishers Weekly

Growing up on Chicago’s South Side in the 1960s, Eddie Ryan is learning a lot—and not just from the Brothers at his all-boys Catholic high school. Eddie’s world is populated by peculiar adults, oddball classmates, and puzzling girls—the greatest mystery of all. He takes it all in through the prism of his Catholic upbringing, which often deepens the mystery, but sometimes clarifies it, too. Entering Eddie Ryan’s world will delight not only readers who grew up there with him, but also those too young to remember.
This new edition of Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? includes a new introduction as well as discussion questions designed to help deepen the reading experience for both individuals and reading groups.

The Unoriginal Sinner and the Ice-Cream God (Loyola Classics)
ISBN: 0829424296

Loyola Classics. 2006

All religions have worked hard to give you the impression that I’m a stiff the kind of guy you’d never invite to a party. . . . I like laughter and the people who do it from the twitterers to the chucklers to those whose laughter roars out in a gallop of explosions. To me, laughter is taking a bite out of life and saying, “Just right.”
Signed: God
Clever yet cynical Tim Conroy, a failed idealist with a chip on his shoulder, is unable to find a secure place for himself in 1960s South Side Chicago. He narrates his bittersweet struggles with God, sex, career, and education in a voice that evokes an Irish Catholic Holden Caulfield. This poignant, skillfully told tale concludes John R. Powers’s memorable coming-of-age trilogy that includes The Last Catholic in America and Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?

The Junk-Drawer Corner-Store Front-Porch Blues
ISBN: 0451176022

Signet. 1993

Returning to his childhood home on Chicago's South Side, Hollywood comedy writer Donald Cooper roams the streets searching for the key to his identity. Reprint.


American Library Association's list of Best Books for Young Adults in 1975 for ''Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?''