Mat Johnson has explored the complexities of American racial identity through satire, historical fiction, and graphic novels. Drawing on his experiences as the son of a Black mother and an Irish-American father, Johnson offers readers and audiences a nuanced, challenging view on what it means to be a person of color in America throughout history and today.
Since the publication of his first novel, Drop, in 2000, Johnson has established a reputation as a forward-thinking writer with a unique, imaginative perspective on American social norms, which he explores through characters that toe the line between outlandish and instantly recognizable. His follow-up novel, the gentrification satire Hunting In Harlem, was highly acclaimed and received the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award for Novel of the Year.
Johnson’s satirical novel, Pym, a brilliant reimagining of a famously enigmatic Edgar Allen Poe story, was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The Seattle Times, the Houston Chronicle, and more. Loving Day, his 2016 novel, is a hilarious yet moving story about race, family, and opposites bound in love. Hailed as “Exceptional…To say that Loving Day is a book about race is like saying Moby-Dick is a book about whales,” by the Los Angeles Times, Loving Day was a New York Times Notable Book and named one of the best books of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Men’s Journal, and more. Both Pym and Loving Day (one of The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2015) are popular choices for common reading experiences across campuses nationwide. Johnson has also brought his sensibility to comics and graphic novels, most notably in Incognegro, which combines graphic storytelling, noir mystery, and meticulously-researched history to explore issues of passing in a segregated society and America’s history of lynching.
In lectures that explore race, identity, and the writing process, Johnson unravels the themes that run through his work with humor, scholarship, and insight. He has received the Dos Passos Prize for Literature and was the first person to be named a James Baldwin Fellow. Johnson is a professor at University of Oregon’s Creative Writing Program and English Department.
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