Dr. Charles Johnson
Dr. Johnson is a novelist, philosopher, essayist, literary scholar, short-story writer, cartoonist and illustrator, an author of children’s literature, and a screen-and-teleplay writer. A MacArthur fellow, Johnson has received a 2002 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, a 1990 National Book Award for his novel Middle Passage, a 1985 Writers Guild award for his PBS teleplay “Booker,” the 2016 W.E.B. Du Bois Award at the National Black Writers Conference, and many other awards. The Charles Johnson Society at the American Literature Association was founded in 2003. In February 2020, Lifeline Theater in Chicago debuted its play adaptation of Middle Passage. Dr. Johnson’s most recent publications are The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling, his fourth short story collection, Night Hawks, which was nominated for a 2019 Washington State Book Award, and GRAND: A Grandparent’s Wisdom for a Happy Life. With Steven Barnes, he is co-author of the recently published graphic novel, The Eightfold Path.
This remarkable collection borrows heavily from the traditions of pop-culture morality anthology series such as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Night Gallery, Lovecraft Country, and the publications of E.C. Comics. Heavily influenced by the science fiction pulps of the 1950s and 1960s, the collection remixes classic social narratives such as Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and The Arabian Nights, through an edgy, contemporary, yet spiritually centered lens. In The Eightfold Path, our destinies lie in heeding the lessons given in every one of these entrancing tales.
Charles Johnson’s remarkable literary career has had only one drawback: It’s tended to distract attention from his equally remarkable work as a cartoonist. He was still in college when he published his first collection, 1970’s Black Humor. The first collection of his work in more than 50 years, All Your Racial Problems Will Soon End — which takes its title from one of his ever-caustic captions — includes parts of Black Humor, his next book Half-Past Nation Time, and the never-published manuscript Lumps in the Melting Pot. Johnson’s wit is as supple as his line, and these comics encompass a wide range of feelings and themes. Some invite the reader to ponder what’s changed since the ’70s, while others remain glaringly relevant. As two black grads in mortarboards contemplate their diplomas, one says, “Well, I guess now I’ll see if Standard Oil or the Bank of America needs a consultant with a degree in Black History.” Confronted at her door by five policemen with guns, a black woman says, “You can’t raid our house now; the place is a mess!” This collection isn’t just a long-overdue tribute to a great cartoonist; it’s a terrific read.
Dr. Johnson currently resides in Seattle, Washington with his 10-yr old grandson Emery and his daughter Elisheba with whom he coauthors the YA Sy Fi adventure series, The Adventures of Emery Jones, Boy Science Wonder. Which is published by Chatwin books in Seattle.