Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Charles Johnson  

Pen Name: Genres:Fiction, Non-Fiction

Genre: Genres

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1948 in Evanston, Illinois


-- Website -- http://www.oxherdingtale.com
-- Wikipedia -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_R._Johnson
-- Charles Johnson on WorldCat -- http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=charles+johnson


Illinois Connection

Charles was born in Evanston and he attended Southern Illinois University.

Biographical and Professional Information

A writer, scholar and cartoonist, Johnson received his B.S. and M.A. from Southern Illinois University in 1971 and 1973 and his Ph.D. in philosophy from SUNY-Stony Brook in 1988.Recently retired, Johnson was the S. Wilson and Grace M. Pollock Endowed Professor of English at the University of Washington. While there, he also was the former director of the creative writing program at the University of Washington. He also served as fiction editor for the ''Seattle Review'' from l978-98.In his novels, ''Dreamer'' and ''Middle Passage'', Johnson directly addressed the issues of black life in America.Johnson sponsors the ''Marie Clair Davis Award in Creative Writing'', given to a secondary student at Evanston Township High School, and the ''Charles Johnson Student Fiction Award'', a national contest, at Southern Illinois University.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Faith And The Good Thing
ISBN: 0743212541

Scribner. 2001

Faith Cross, a beautiful and purely innocent young black woman, is told by her dying mother to go and get herself "a good thing." Thus begins an extraordinary pilgrim's progress that takes Faith from the magic and mysticism of the rural South to the promises and perils of modern-day Chicago. It is an odyssey that propels Faith from the degradation of prostitution, drugs, and drink into a faceless middle-class reality, and finally into a searing tragedy that ironically leads to the discovery of the real Good Thing. National Book Award-winner Charles Johnson's first novel, originally published in 1974, puts the life-affirming soul of the African-American experience at the summit of American storytelling.

Oxherding Tale: A Novel
ISBN: 0743264495

Scribner. 2005

One night in the antebellum South, a slave owner and his African-American butler stay up to all hours until, too drunk to face their wives, they switch places in each other's beds. The result is a hilarious imbroglio and an offspring -- Andrew Hawkins, whose life becomes Oxherding Tale.
Through sexual escapades, picaresque adventures, and philosophical inquiry, Hawkins navigates white and black worlds and comments wryly on human nature along the way. Told with pure genius, Oxherding Tale is a deliciously funny, bitterly ironic account of slavery, racism, and the human spirit and it reveals the author as a great talent with even greater humanity.

Middle Passage
ISBN: 0684855887

Scribner. 1998

A twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Charles Johnson’s National Book Award-winning masterpiece—"a novel in the tradition of Billy Budd and Moby-Dick…heroic in proportion…fiction that hooks the mind" (The New York Times Book Review)—now with a new introduction from Stanley Crouch.

Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed slave and irrepressible rogue, is lost in the underworld of 1830s New Orleans. Desperate to escape the city’s unscrupulous bill collectors and the pawing hands of a schoolteacher hellbent on marrying him, he jumps aboard the Republic, a slave ship en route to collect members of a legendary African tribe, the Allmuseri. Thus begins a voyage of metaphysical horror and human atrocity, a journey which challenges our notions of freedom, fate and how we live together. Peopled with vivid and unforgettable characters, nimble in its interplay of comedy and serious ideas, this dazzling modern classic is a perfect blend of the picaresque tale, historical romance, sea yarn, slave narrative and philosophical allegory.

Now with a new introduction from renowned writer and critic Stanley Crouch, this twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Middle Passage celebrates a cornerstone of the American canon and the masterwork of one of its most important writers. "Long after we’d stopped believe in the great American novel, along comes a spellbinding adventure story that may be just that" (Chicago Tribune).

Dreamer: A Novel
ISBN: 0684854430

Scribner. 1999

From the National Book Award-winning author of Middle Passage, a fearless fictional portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his pivotal moment in American history.

Set against the tensions of Civil Rights era America, Dreamer is a remarkable fictional excursion into the last two years of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life, when the political and personal pressures on this country's most preeminent moral leader were the greatest. While in Chicago for his first northern campaign against poverty and inequality, King encounters Chaym Smith, whose startling physical resemblance to King wins him the job of official stand-in. Matthew Bishop, a civil rights worker and loyal follower of King, is given the task of training the smart and deeply cynical Smith for the job. In doing so, Bishop must face the issue of what makes one man great while another man can only stand in for greatness. Provocative, heartfelt, and masterfully rendered, Charles Johnson confirms yet again that he is one of the great treasures of modern American literature.

Dr. Charles Johnson is a novelist, screenwriter, essayist, professional cartoonist and the Pollock Professor of English at the University of Washington. He is the author of more than sixteen books, including the PEN/Faulkner nominated story collection The Sorcerer's Apprentice and the novel Middle Passage, for which he won the National Book Award.

Africans in America: America's Journey through Slavery
ISBN: 0156008548

Mariner Books. 1999

A riveting narrative history of America, from the 1607 landing in Jamestown to the brink of the Civil War, Africans in America tells the shared history of Africans and Europeans as seen through the lens of slavery. It is told from the point of view of the Africans who arrived in shackles and endured the terrible dichotomy of this new land founded on the ideal of liberty but dedicated to the perpetuation of slavery. Meticulously researched, this book weaves together the experiences of the colonists, slaves, free and fugitive blacks, and abolitionists to present an utterly original document, a startling and moving drama of the effects of slavery and racism on our conflicted national identity. The result transcends history as we were taught it and transforms the way we see our past.

King: A Photobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
ISBN: 0670892165

Avery. 2000

A photographic tour of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life, public and private, covers a wide range of scenes, from King standing before his congregation to the bus boycott in Montgomery and his incarceration in a Birmingham jail to his assassination and its aftermath. 50,000 first printing.

Soulcatcher: And other stories
ISBN: 0156011123

Mariner Books. 2001

Twelve stories about the African experience of slavery in America, by the National Book Award-winning novelist.

Nothing has had as profound an effect on American life as slavery. For blacks and whites alike, the experience has left us with a conflicted and contradictory history. Now, famed novelist Charles Johnson, whose Middle Passage won the National Book Award, presents a dozen tales of the effects and experience of slavery, each based on historical fact, and each about those Africans who arrived on our shores in shackles. From Martha Washington's management of her slaves, bequeathed to her at the death of the first president, to a boy chained in the bowels of a ship plying the infamous passage from Africa to the South laden with human cargo, from a lynching in Indiana to a hunter of escaped slaves searching the Boston market for his quarry, from an early Quaker meeting exploring resettlement in Africa to the day after Emancipation-the voices, terrors, and savagery of slavery come vividly and unforgettably to life.

These stories, told by a master storyteller, transcend history even as they present it, and retell the mythic proportions of a historical period with astounding realism and beauty, power, and emotion.


Turning the Wheel: Essays on Buddhism and Writing
ISBN: 1416572430

Scribner. 2007

"Were it not for the Buddhadharma, says Charles Johnson in his preface to Turning the Wheel, "I'm convinced that, as a black American and an artist, I would not have been able to successfully negotiate my last half century of life in this country. Or at least not with a high level of creative productivity." In this collection of provocative and intimate essays, Johnson writes of the profound connection between Buddhism and creativity, and of the role of Eastern philosophy in the quest for a free and thoughtful life.

In 1926, W. E. B. Du Bois asked African-Americans what they would most want were the color line miraculously forgotten. In Turning the Wheel, Johnson sets out to explore this question by examining his experiences both as a writer and as a practitioner of Buddhism.

He looks at basic Buddhist principles and practices, demonstrating how Buddhism is both the most revolutionary and most civilized of possible human choices. He discusses fundamental Buddhist practices such as the Eightfold Path, Taming the Mind, and Sangha and illuminates their place in the American Civil Rights movement.

Johnson moves from spiritual guides to spiritual nourishment: writing. In essays touching on the role of the black intellectual, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Ralph Ellison, Johnson uses tools of Buddhist thinking to clarify difficult ideas. Powerful and revelatory, these essays confirm that writing and reading, along with Buddhism, are the basic components that make up a thoughtful life.

Dr. King's Refrigerator: And Other Bedtime Stories
ISBN: 0743264533

Scribner. 2005

Winner of the National Book Award

“A novel in the honorable tradition of Billy Budd and Moby Dick…heroic in proportion… fiction that hooks into the mind.” — The New York Times Book Review

“Long after we’d stopped believing in the great American novel, along comes a spellbinding adventure story that may be just that.” — Chicago Tribune

“It’s a joy to read fiction in which there is a cultivated vision at work...the greatest victory of Dreamer is the light it shines on the life of Martin Luther King Jr.”

—Dennis McFarland, The New York Times Book Review

“In their remarkable simplicity these stories reach into...the African American experience with surprising freshness and the fluency of years of gathered wisdom. This book is a deeply satisfying reading adventure.” — Black Issues Book Review


Awards

  • Governor's Award for Literature from the state of Washington for ''Oxherding Tale'' in 1983
  • Govenor's Award for Literature for ''Being and Race'' in 1989
  • National Book Award for ''Middle Passages'', 1990
  • Best American Short Stories in 1992
  • His short fiction was included in the O'Henry Prize Stories in 1993
  • Honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from Southern Illinois University in 1995
  • Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Northwestern in 1994
  • Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in l999
  • Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award from the Corporate Council for the Arts in 2000
  • Pacific Northwest Writers Associations 2001 Achievement Award for distinguished professional achievement and for enhancing the stature of Northwest literature"
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, 2002
  • Distinguished Alumni Award from Evanston Township High School in 2003
  • Stephen Henderson Award for outstanding contributions to African American literature and culture at the spring conference for the American Literature Association in 2004
  • Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Lewis and Clark College in 2006

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

    , contact Jodi F. Solomon Speakers Bureau, Inc . 325 Huntington Avenue Suite #112 Boston, Massachusetts 02115 Office Number 617 266-3450 Fax Number 617 266-5660