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John Michael Cummings

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John Michael Cummings
Author John Michael Cummings
Author John Michael Cummings
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

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John Michael Cummings (born 1963) is an American novelist and short story writer, and the author of the novels The Night I Freed John Brown and Don't Forget Me, Bro.


Cummings was born and raised in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where much of his fiction is set. After graduating from Jefferson High School in 1981, he briefly attended Shepherd College. He then worked in a series of odd jobs before a friend convinced him to return to college.[1] He graduated from George Mason University in 1989 with a BA in studio art. After publishing short stories in American literary magazines and beginning a novel set in Harper's Ferry, he moved to New York City where he worked at a literary agency and as a copyeditor for a publishing company. Following the publication of his debut novel, The Night I Freed John Brown, Cummings studied creative writing at the University of Central Florida, graduating with an MFA in 2012.[2][3]


His young adult debut novel, The Night I Freed John Brown was published in 2008. In Cummings’ novel, a late twentieth century local family has to deal with Harpers Ferry tourists, who visit the area because of its connection with the abolitionist John Brown. The harsh father, with his intolerant, throwback attitudes, is set up as the anti-John Brown. The Night I Freed John Brown was included in USA Today's 2009 list of newly released titles connected to Black History Month.[4][5]

Ugly To Start With, published in 2011, is a collection of thirteen short stories set in and around Harpers Ferry. The stories were all previously published in various journals.[6][3]

Cummings’s first adult novel, Don't Forget Me, Bro was published in 2015. Set in Appalachia, the novel revolves around a family whose oldest son, a schizophrenic, dies at 45. The story is based upon the experiences of John Michael Cummings' real life family and the death of his brother.[7][8]


Novels and short story collections[edit]

  • The Night I Freed John Brown. New York: Philomel Books (Penguin Group), 2008. ISBN 978-0-399-25054-5 Search this book on Logo.png.
  • Ugly to Start With. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-935-97808-4 Search this book on Logo.png.


  • The House My Father.
  • Chimney Rock.

Short stories[edit]

  • "Electric Church," Portland Magazine, 1991
  • "Missing," Alaska Quarterly Review, 1992
  • "Shadow Box," Painted Bride Quarterly, 1993
  • "Tribe," Buffalo Spree Magazine, 1994
  • "The Houseplant Generation," Arkansas Review, 1996
  • "The Truth About Video Games, and For That Matter, Vision," Pacific Review, 1998
  • "Every Living Thing," Westview Literary Magazine, 2000
  • "Fourteen Seconds," North American Review, 2001
  • "Carter," Passager Literary Journal, 2003
  • "Two Tunes," Rosebud, 2004
  • "The Gun Wall," North Dakota Quarterly, 2004
  • "The Scratchboard Project," The Iowa Review, 2006 * Nominated for The Pushcart Prize
  • "Treasure Hunt," The Chattahoochee Review, 2007
  • "Un Jour J'aimerai," The Texas Review, 2008
  • "Marshmallow People," The Kenyon Review, 2008


  1. Wilson, Debra Minor (7 May 2009). "Finding ‘voice to write’". Times West Virginian. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  2. Faktorovich, Anna (Summer 2014). "Interview with John Cummings". Anaphora Literary Press
  3. 3.0 3.1 Armstrong, Matt (23 August 2012). "Ugly to Start With details life in W.Va". The Journal. Archived from the original on October 28, 2014. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  4. Rosenberg, Liz (21 September 2008). "Superman, born in Cleveland". Boston Globe. Archived version retrieved 9 June 2019.
  5. Minzesheimer, Bob. "This month, flip through the pages of black history". USA Today. Archived from the original on May 13, 2019. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  6. Wilson, Frank (10 June 2012 ). "Ugly to Start With a handsome suite of stories by John Michael Cummings". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  7. Walker, Tim (30 March 2015). "“Don’t Forget Me, Bro” by West Virginia Writer John Michael Cummings". Allegheny Mountain Radio. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  8. Pleska, Cat (29 March 2015). "WV Book Team: ‘Don’t Forget Me, Bro’". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 9 June 2019.

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