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Charles Richard Johnson
Charles Richard Johnson


American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and cartoonist.   Johnson, whose balance of philosophy and folklore has been praised since the publication of his first novel in 1974, gained prominence when his novel Middle Passage (1990) won the National Book Award in 1990.   Like his other works of fiction, Middle Passage embodies Johnson's controversial version of black literature, defined in his Being and Race:  Black Writing since 1970 (1988) as "a fiction of increasing artistic and intellectual growth, one that enables us as a people-as a culture-to move from narrow complaint to broad celebration."

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Johnson began his career as a cartoonist.  Under the tutelage of cartoonist Lawrence Lariar, he saw his work published by the time he was seventeen years old. His two collections of cartoons were acclaimed for their subtle but pointed satire of race relations, and their success led to "Charlie's Pad," a 1971 series on public television that Johnson created, coproduced, and hosted.  As an undergraduate at Southern Illinois University, Johnson studied with novelist and literary theorist John Gardner, whose conception of "moral fiction"-demanding from the author a near-fanatical commitment to technique, imagination, and ethics-deeply impressed Johnson.  Johnson's first novel, Faith and the Good Thing, was published in 1974 when the author was studying for this Ph.D. in phenomenology and literary aesthetics at the State University of New York at Stonybrook.

Biography excerpt from:
James P. Draper, Editor of Black Literature Criticism, and Gale Research Inc . C

  Middle Passage In this savage parable of the African American experience, Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed slave eking out a living in New Orleans in 1830, hops aboard a square rigger to evade the prim Boston schoolteacher who wants to marry him. But the Republic turns out to be a slave clipper bound for Africa.... Read more

  Dreamer At the center of National Book Award winner Charles Johnson's novel Dreamer are three remarkable men: Martin Luther King Jr.; his aide, Matthew Bishop, an African American philosophy student; and Chaym Smith, a man who is a dead ringer for the civil rights leader. Not only does Smith resemble King,... Read more

  Oxherding Tale A new approach to an old tale
This novel moves African-American literature beyond African American, and ironically by way of it's oldest from, the slave narrative. Using his strong philosophical background in eastern religions and texts, Johnson appies Bhuddist and Taoist ideas of the self to deal with the concept of race in... Read more

    The Sorcerer's Apprentice : Tales and Conjurations The Sorcerer's Apprentice
The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a good example for writing, and the inability to write. Exchange Value was chosen by Gardner as one of the best American short stories of 1982 and has become Johnson's most anthologized short story. Two kids steal from a dead old woman who hoarded her money in fear, and... Read more

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