Author bio

Fenton Johnson

Fenton Johnson - book author

Fenton Johnson is an award-winning author who teaches in the creative writing programs at the University of Arizona and Spalding University.

Librarian note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Fenton^Johnson

Fenton Johnson is the author of books: Geography Of The Heart, Scissors, Paper, Rock: A Novel, Keeping Faith: A Skeptic's Journey, The Man Who Loved Birds, Everywhere Home: A Life in Essays, Crossing the River: A Novel, At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life, The Best of the West 2: New Short Stories from the Wide Side of the Missouri, Tell Me True: Memoir, History, and Writing a Life, LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia


Author books

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01
In this poignant memoir, the author interweaves two fascinating stories: his own upbringing as the youngest of nine children of a Kentucky whiskey maker and that of his lover Larry Rose, the only child of German Jews, survivors of the Holocaust. With grace and affectionate humor, he follows their relationship from their first meeting through Larry's death. "I'm so lucky, " his lover told him repeatedly, even as he was confronting HIV. "Denial, pure and simple, " Johnson told himself, "until our third and final trip to Paris, where on our last night in the city we sat together in the courtyard of the Picasso Museum. There I turned to him and said 'I'm so lucky, ' and it was as if the time allotted to him to teach me this lesson, the time allotted to me to learn it had been consumed, and there was nothing left but the facts of things to play out."
02
For the first time since he left his birthplace in Kentucky for San Francisco, Raphael Hardin has returned home alone. Before, he had always brought men with him on his visits, lovers with whom his mother had been “civil, even flirtatious,” while his father retreated into his sacred woodshop. Now his mother has died and, at age thirty-six, Raphael has come back to see his dying father, who knows and disapproves of Raphael’s boyfriends but who is unaware that this, his youngest child, may be ill as well. Raphael’s halting, often painful attempt to reconcile with his father forms the centerpiece of Fenton Johnson’s astonishing novel. At times funny, at times heartbreakingly poignant, Scissors, Paper, Rock explores with wisdom and humor the many kinds of family, the infinite varieties of love. Through the intricately interwoven stories of the Hardin parents and children, Scissors, Paper, Rock contrasts the families we inherit — our blood ties — with the families we choose, our partners in love and our friends.
03
In his resonant account of a spiritual quest, Fenton Johnson examines what it means for a skeptic to have and to keep faith. Exploring Western and Eastern monastic traditions, Johnson lives as a member of the community at the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky and at the branches of the San Francisco Zen Center. Ultimately his encounter with Buddhism brings him to a new understanding and embrace of Christianity. Weaving together meditations on Johnson's spiritual journey with history and insights from modern monks, Keeping Faith offers a blueprint for a new way of practicing faith.
04
Having taken great risks -- to immigrate to America, to take monastic vows -- Bengali physician Meena Chatterjee and Brother Flavian are each seeking safety and security when they encounter Johnny Faye, a Vietnam vet, free spirit, and expert marijuana farmer. Amid the fields and forests of a Trappist monastery, Johnny Faye patiently cultivates Meena's and Flavian's capacity for faith, transforming all they thought they knew about duty and desire. In turn they offer him an experience of civilization other than war and chaos.

But Johnny Faye's law-breaking sets him against a district attorney for whom the law is a tool for ambition rather than justice. Their confrontation leads to a harrowing reckoning that ensnares Dr. Chatterjee and Brother Flavian, who must make a life-or-death choice between an act of justice that may precipitate their ruin or a betrayal that offers salvation.

Inspired by the real-life state police kidnapping and murder of a legendary storyteller and petty criminal, The Man Who Loved Birds engages pressing contemporary issues through a timeless narrative of ill-fated romance. Celebrated author Fenton Johnson has woven a seamless, haunting fable exploring the eternal conflicts between free will and destiny, politics and nature, the power of law and the power of love.
05
Part retrospective, part memoir, Fenton Johnson's collection Everywhere Home: A Life in Essays explores sexuality, religion, geography, the AIDS crisis, and more. Johnson's wanderings take him from the hills of Kentucky to those of San Francisco, from the streets of Paris to the sidewalks of Calcutta. Along the way, he investigates questions large and small: What's the relationship between artists and museums, illuminated in a New Guinean display of shrunken heads? What's the difference between empiricism and intuition?

The collection draws together essays that originally appeared in Harper's, The New York Times, All Things Considered and elsewhere, along with new work. Johnson reports from the front lines of the AIDS epidemic, from Burning Man, from monasteries near and far. His subject matter ranges from Oscar Wilde to censorship in journalism to Kentucky basketball.

Everywhere Home is the latest title in Sarabande's Bruckheimer Series in Kentucky Literature.

Fenton Johnson is the author of the novels The Man Who Loved Birds, Scissors, Paper, Rock, and Crossing the River, and the nonfiction books Keeping Faith and Geography of the Heart. Johnson has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He writes regularly for Harper's, and is a professor in the creative writing programs at the University of Arizona and Spalding University.
06
Martha Braff Pickett, the unconventional daughter of conservative Baptists, crosses the river to the Catholic side of town, where she meets her future husband.
07
Solitude is the inspirational core for many writers, artists, and thinkers. Alone with our thoughts, we can make discoveries that matter not only to us but to others. To be a solitary is not only to draw sustenance from being alone, but to know that our ultimate responsibility is not only to our partner or our own offspring, but to a larger community.


Fenton Johnson’s lyrical prose and searching sensibility explores what it means to choose to be solitary and celebrates the notion, common in his Roman Catholic childhood, that solitude is a legitimate and dignified calling. He delves into the lives and works of nearly a dozen iconic “solitaries” he considers his kindred spirits, from Thoreau at Walden Pond and Emily Dickinson in Amherst, to Bill Cunningham photographing the streets of New York; from Cézanne (married, but solitary nonetheless) painting Mt. St. Victoire over and over again, to the fiercely self-protective Zora Neale Hurston. Each character portrait is full of intense detail, the bright wakes they’ve left behind illuminating Fenton Johnson’s own journey from his childhood in the backwoods of Kentucky to his travels alone throughout the world and the people he has lost and found along the way.


Combining memoir, social criticism, and careful research, At the Center of All Beauty resonates with all solitaries and all who might wish to carve out more space for solitude.
09
"The memoir has been, on the one hand, a startling success story in American publishing in the past quarter century. But it has also been literature's changeling, the bad apple, ever suspect, slightly illegitimate, a brassy parvenu talking too much about itself." - Patricia Hampl, "You're History"

Balancing precariously between history and literature, memoir writers have finally found their place on the bookshelf. But increased notoriety brings intense scrutiny: memoirists are expected to create a narrative worthy of fiction while also staying true to the facts. Historians, too, handle tricky issues of writing from "real life," when imagination must fill gaps in the historical record.

In this landmark collection, Patricia Hampl and Elaine Tyler May have gathered fourteen original essays from award-winning memoirists and historians. Whether the record emerges from archival sources or from personal memory, these writers show how to make the leap to telling a good story, while also telling us true.

Contributors: Andre Aciman, Matt Becker, June Cross, Carlos Eire, Helen Epstein, Samuel G Freedman, Patricia Hampl, Fenton Johnson, Alice Kaplan, Annette Kobak, Michael MacDonald, Elaine Tyler May, Cheri Register, D. J. Waldie

Patricia Hampl is the author of three memoirs, including most recently The Florist's Daughter. Elaine Tyler May has written several books on twentieth-century American history. Both are Regents Professors at the University of Minnesota.
10
This collection, the first of its kind, gathers original and previously published fiction and poetry from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer authors from Appalachia. Like much Appalachian literature, these works are pervaded with an attachment to family and the mountain landscape, yet balancing queer and Appalachian identities is an undertaking fraught with conflict. This collection confronts the problematic and complex intersections of place, family, sexuality, gender, and religion with which LGBTQ Appalachians often grapple.

With works by established writers such as Dorothy Allison, Silas House, Ann Pancake, Fenton Johnson, and Nickole Brown and emerging writers such as Savannah Sipple, Rahul Mehta, Mesha Maren, and Jonathan Corcoran, this collection celebrates a literary canon made up of writers who give voice to what it means to be Appalachian and LGBTQ.