Mat Johnson’s mission is to increase the presence of people of color in American literature, and he’s certainly helping to do just that.
The UO professor and Philip H. Knight Chair of Humanities in the Creative Writing Program will share how he’s been able to accomplish what he’s done so far, and the factors underlying the keys to its success, in an upcoming talk that is part of the 2022-23 African American Workshop and Lecture Series.
Johnson’s discussion, “Embracing Joy: The Long Game for Literary Diversity,” will take place April 24 at the Redwood Auditorium in the Erb Memorial Union. The event gets underway with a reception at 5 p.m., with Johnson’s presentation taking place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. RSVPs are encouraged and can be done online.
For more than 20 years, Johnson has been a mentor and advocate for increasing diversity within his field. After starting his own writing career in a publishing system that limited and constrained diversity, he made it his mission to make publishing more accessible to people of underrepresented communities and views. Many of his former students have gone on to become among the most prominent writers in contemporary fiction, contributing to a far more diverse literary landscape.
He's also an accomplished author in his own right. Earlier this year, Johnson was selected as one of the top 10 picks for the 2023 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. The PEN/Faulkner Award is considered America's most prestigious peer-juried literary prize, and Johnson's novel, “Invisible Things,” earned him the recognition. Johnson is also serving as a judge for 2023 National Book Awards.
His publications include the novels “Invisible Things,” “Loving Day” and “Pym,” the nonfiction novella “The Great Negro Plot,” and the graphic novel “Incognegro.” Johnson is the recipient of the American Book Award, the James Baldwin Fellowship, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature, and the American Book Award.
The African American Workshop and Lecture Series, now in its seventh year, is sponsored by the Office of the President and hosted by the Division of Equity and Inclusion. The series was created as a result of the activism of the UO Black Student Task Force, whose 12 demands in 2016 also led to the creation of the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center and the Umoja Academic Residential Community and the renaming of what are now Unthank and University Halls.
—By Jim Murez, University Communications