Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Philip Graham  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

Born: 1951 in Brooklyn, New York

-- Philip Graham's Website --
-- Website --
-- Philip Graham on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Graham resides in Urbana, Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

Philip Graham teaches at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he is a co-founder and the current fiction editor of the literary/arts journal ''Ninth Letter'', and is the recipient of three campus teaching awards. He also teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing.Three of his books are available in ebook format ''The Art of the Knock'', ''How to Read an Unwritten Language'' and ''Interior Design''.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

The Art of the Knock
ISBN: 0688041175

William Morrow & Co. 1984

A salesman develops a special knock to encourage customers to answer their doors, two lonely parents adopt light bulbs, a dead man can't bear to leave his grieving wife, and a couple develops a new language for their family

Parallel Worlds: An Anthropologist and a Writer Encounter Africa
ISBN: 0226305066

University of Chicago Press. 1994

This suspenseful and moving memoir of Africa recounts the experiences of Alma Gottlieb, an anthropologist, and Philip Graham, a fiction writer, as they lived in two remote villages in the rain forest of Cote d'Ivoire. With an unusual coupling of first-person narratives, their alternate voices tell a story imbued with sweeping narrative power, humility, and gentle humor. Parallel Worlds is a unique look at Africa, anthropological fieldwork, and the artistic process.

"A remarkable look at a remote society [and] an engaging memoir that testifies to a loving partnership . . . compelling."—James Idema, Chicago Tribune

How to Read an Unwritten Language
ISBN: 0446672785

Grand Central Pub. 1997

Michael Kirby, a sensitive man who collects odd objects to mark the transitions in his life, tries to understand the language of the heart through his relationships to family and lovers. Reprint. NYT.

Interior Design: Stories
ISBN: 0684803720

Scribner. 1996

A collection of stories revolves around the idea that people are fueled by their secret personal worlds--their interior designs--such as the woman who builds a wire model of herself and hides it in her closet. 10,000 first printing.

The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches from Lisbon
ISBN: 0226305155

University of Chicago Press. 2009

A dispatch from a foreign land, when crafted by an attentive and skilled writer, can be magical, transmitting pleasure, drama, and seductive strangeness.

In The Moon, Come to Earth, Philip Graham offers an expanded edition of a popular series of dispatches originally published on McSweeney’s, an exuberant yet introspective account of a year’s sojourn in Lisbon with his wife and daughter. Casting his attentive gaze on scenes as broad as a citywide arts festival and as small as a single paving stone in a cobbled walk, Graham renders Lisbon from a perspective that varies between wide-eyed and knowing though he’s unquestionably not a tourist, at the same time he knows he will never be a local. So his lyrical accounts reveal his struggles with (and love of) the Portuguese language, an awkward meeting with Nobel laureate José Saramago, being trapped in a budding soccer riot, and his daughter’s challenging transition to adolescence while attending a Portuguese school—but he also waxes loving about Portugal’s saudade-drenched music, its inventive cuisine, and its vibrant literary culture. And through his humorous, self-deprecating, and wistful explorations, we come to know Graham himself, and his wife and daughter, so that when an unexpected crisis hits his family, we can’t help but ache alongside them.

A thoughtful, finely wrought celebration of the moment-to-moment excitement of diving deep into another culture and confronting one’s secret selves, The Moon, Come to Earth is literary travel writing of a rare intimacy and immediacy.

Braided Worlds
ISBN: 0226305287

University of Chicago Press. 2012

In a compelling mix of literary narrative and ethnography, anthropologist Alma Gottlieb and writer Philip Graham continue the long journey of cultural engagement with the Beng people of Côte d’Ivoire that they first recounted in their award-winning memoir Parallel Worlds. Their commitment over the span of several decades has lent them a rare insight. Braiding their own stories with those of the villagers of Asagbé and Kosangbé, Gottlieb and Graham take turns recounting a host of unexpected dramas with these West African villages, prompting serious questions about the fraught nature of cultural contact.
Through events such as a religious leader’s declaration that the authors’ six-year-old son, Nathaniel, is the reincarnation of a revered ancestor, or Graham’s late father being accepted into the Beng afterlife, or the increasing, sometimes dangerous madness of a villager, the authors are forced to reconcile their anthropological and literary gaze with the deepest parts of their personal lives. Along with these intimate dramas, they follow the Beng from times of peace through the times of tragedy that led to Côte d’Ivoire’s recent civil conflicts. From these and many other interweaving narratives—and with the combined strengths of an anthropologist and a literary writer—Braided Worlds examines the impact of postcolonialism, race, and global inequity at the same time that it chronicles a living, breathing village community where two very different worlds meet.


  • 1991 - Special Mention citation for the short story, "The Reverse," in The Pushcart Prize XVI.
  • 1992 - Creative Writing Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts.
  • 1992 - "Light Bulbs," short story, performed by actress Mary Ann Thebus (directed by Steve Scott)

    for Stories on Stage, Organic Theatre, Chicago, Illinois, December 14, 1992.

  • 1992 - The William Peden Prize in Fiction, awarded by The Missouri Review for the short story, "Angel."
  • 1993 - Special Mention citation for the short story, "Angel," in The Pushcart Prize XVIII.
  • 1993 - Victor Turner Prize, awarded to Parallel Worlds

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

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