Meet the 2018 faculty: Mat Johnson

Posted by on July 30th, 2018

Mat Johnson has authored the novels Loving Day (2015), Pym (2011), Hunting in Harlem (2003), Drop (2000), the nonfiction novella The Great Negro Plot (2007), and comic books Incognegro (2008) and Dark Rain (2010). The long list of awards and recognitions Johnson has received includes: the American Book Award, the United States Artist James Baldwin Fellowship, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a Barnes & Noble Great New Writers selection, and the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature.

After graduating from Earlham College, Johnson received an MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts. Having taught at Rutgers, Columbia University, Bard College, and The Callalloo Journal writers retreat, he is now a faculty member at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program.

Johnson’s works often confront seemingly impenetrable issues of race and identity. His most recent novel, Loving Day, is at its core a narrative of family and belonging: one that orbits and often collides with the complexities of its characters. The New York Times describes the book’s protagonist, Warren Duffy, who “lives and breathes what W. E. B. Du Bois called double consciousness, by which the American black person is ‘always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others….Except Warren’s body is white, making things even thornier.”

When it comes to writing, Johnson offers terror as a catalyst for making things happen on the page. “I start with fear,” he says. “It comes in so many forms. When I write, some of the fear goes away. So I write into the fear, and even more dissipates. I want to be scared while writing. I want to bring it to the surface so I can banish it. Not for long, I realize, but for long enough that even if the experience is not always pleasurable, it’s not miserable. Sometimes, that’s enough.”

Mat Johnson will give his lecture, “Order vs. Chaos in Storytelling,” at 1:30 p.m. on July 31. He will also read at the Upper Valley Campus of Napa Valley College on July 29. Please visit our Literary Events page for additional information on how to attend, and we’d love to see you there!

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