Kimbilio Faculty Member Mat Johnson’s new novel is published this week.
Read Mat’s essay in the New York Times on PROVING MY BLACKNESS:
I grew up a black boy who looked like a white one. My parents divorced when I was 4, and I was raised mostly by my black mom, in a black neighborhood of Philadelphia, during the Black Power movement. I put my dashiki on one arm at a time like every other black boy, but I was haunted by the moments I’d be out with my mother and other black people would look at me as if I were a cuckoo egg accidentally dropped in their nest. The contrast between “blackness” and how I looked was so stark that I often found myself sifting through archaic, pre-20th-century African-American racial definitions to find a word that fit me.Mulatto, 50 percent African.Quadroon, 25 percent African.Octoroon, 12.5 percent African. The next stop down, at 6.25 percent African, was mustefino. I’d never heard anyone call himself mustefino, and I didn’t want to personally relaunch that brand.
Read an interview between Mat and Kimbilio Advisor Victor LaValle
Mat Johnson and I have been friends since we published our first books fifteen years ago. In that time we’ve spent an untold number of hours bullshitting about writing, parenting, and sundry nonsense. Mat’s new novel, Loving Day—which will be released by Spiegel & Grau on May 26—is the story of a mixed-race comic book artist who returns from Wales to his native Philadelphia to discover a daughter he never knew he’d fathered, a mixed-race cult that hopes to recruit him, and a pair of ghosts haunting his father’s home. Our conversation appears below.
Victor LaValle: Germantown’s Finest, what’s going on?
Mat Johnson: I’m sweating my ass of in Houston Fucking Texas is what’s going on. It’s like Philly in July but for six months down here.
VL: That’s going to ruin your image as a writer. Your Twitter profile photo makes you look like an elegant leg breaker, not a sweating goon.
MJ: Breaking legs builds moisture in your arm pits. I am rugged fiction writer man. I make my own paper from the pulp I chew off trees, man.
VL: Yo, I’m 120 pages into that Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and you were right that it’s a beast. It took 100 pages for Mr. Norrell to do any serious magic, but somehow I’ve never become bored. How is Susanna Clarke doing this shit?
And listen to Mat discuss LOVING DAY on NRP: