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Mat Johnson

Acclaimed author of Pym and Loving Day

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  • About Mat Johnson

    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 PostVanity FairThe 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 TimesLoving 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.

  • Speaking Topics

    An Evening With Mat Johnson

    Join Mat Johnson for a reading and discussion of his work in both fiction and graphic novels. An insider's view to the creative process of a prolific author as well as an exploration of Johnson's fascination with race and identity, two themes often explored in his work, Johnson showcases both his intellect and humor in equal measure.

  • Video

  • Praise for Mat Johnson

    Praise for Loving Day

    Hilarious, sometimes discomforting, always brilliant, Loving Day tackles with heart and sly humor identity, family, and finding that elusive place where you belong. This is an awesome, viciously witty novel.

    Roaxne Gay, author of Bad Feminist and An Untamed State

    Writers who are as smart as Mat Johnson are rarely as funny, and those who are as funny are rarely as smart. He is unique, and simply must be read. Loving Day, a tender, ribald, fast-moving novel, is the perfect place to begin

    Teju Cole, author of Open City

    Giddy, biting . . . ferocious . . . Grand metaphors, unsparing social commentary, sharp characters, and sharper humor help propel the book. . . . Loving Day is a welcome effort from a major talent.

    The Boston Globe

    Hilarious and touching new novel about family, identity and what it means to truly love other people . . . Johnson is one of the funniest writers in America. . . . [He] gets at the heart of what it means to be a person—and he does so with more skill, generosity and, yes, love, than just about anyone else writing fiction today. ‘Forgiveness comes later in life, after you’ve created enough disasters of your own,’ Warren observes toward the end of the novel. The disasters make us who we are, and the results can sometimes be amazing—as amazing as this beautiful, triumphant miracle of a book.

    NPR

    Exceptional . . . To say that Loving Day is a book about race is like saying Moby-Dick is a book about whales. . . . [Mat Johnson’s] unrelenting examination of blackness, whiteness and everything in between is handled with ruthless candor and riotous humor. . . . Even when the novel’s family strife and racial politics are at peak intensity, Johnson’s comic timing is impeccable. . . . While it’s tempting to call Johnson’s novel timely or even prescient, he clearly longs for a time when it can be called historical. Sadly, we’re not even close. Until we are able to have the kind of frank and open conversations about race that are commonplace in Loving Day but rare in the real world, the myth of a post-racial society will remain a comic book fantasy.

    The Los Angeles Times

    Praise for Pym

    This extension of Poe’s adventure is a romp that surprises on every page. Funny, insightful…Pym is a death-defying adventure.

    Booklist

    You can trust the veracity of this account: Mat Johnson’s Pym is a spectacularly sly and nimble-footed send-up of this world, the next world, and all points in between. A satire with heart, as courageous as it is cunning.

    Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad

    Mat Johnson has come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and he’s all out of bubble. gum. Pym is an adventure, a satire, and a bracing political debate all rolled into one brilliant novel. Edgar Allen Poe has inspired many authors but Mat Johnson has the inspired audacity to both honor and discredit the man, often in the same sentence. I imagine Poe choking on half the things Johnson writes in this novel, and tipping his tiny hat in admiration to the rest.

    Victor Lavelle, author of The Changeling

    It’s no easy task to balance social satire against life-threatening adventure, the allegory against the gory, but Johnson’s hand is steady and his ability to play against Poe’s text masterly. The book is polyphonous and incisive, an uproarious and hard-driving journey.

    The New York Times Book Review

    Praise for Drop

    Nuanced, elegant and witty.

    Publishers Weekly
  • Books by Mat Johnson

  • Media About Mat Johnson

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