Fenton Johnson is the author of two novels, Crossing the River and Scissors, Paper, Rock, and two works of nonfiction, Geography of the Heart: A Memoir, and Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey among Christian and Buddhist Monks. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as Wallace Stegner and James Michener Fellowships in Fiction, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in both fiction and creative nonfiction, and an Arizona Commission on the Arts Fellowship in creative nonfiction.
His writing has received a Kentucky Literary Award and two Lambda Literary Awards for best creative nonfiction, as well as the American Library Association Award for best gay/lesbian nonfiction. He has published short stories, essays, and literary journalism in a wide range of anthologies, literary quarterlies, magazines, and newspapers, among them the New York Times Magazine, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and Harper’s Magazine, where he authored two cover essays. He has contributed commentaries to National Public Radio and has written narration for award-winning public television documentaries, among them La Ofrenda: Days of the Dead and Stranger with a Camera, recipient of a Columbia Dupont Award in Journalism. He writes and speaks frequently on the significance and role of the humanities in medical school curricula.
He has a lifelong commitment to the preservation and advancement of human rights. His essay The Limitless Heart (later incorporated into Geography of the Heart)was the first affirmative portrayal of same-gender relationships to appear in the New York Times (June 23, 1991).
He has a distinguished career as a teacher, and has taught in the graduate creative writing programs at San Francisco State University, Columbia University, New York University, and Sarah Lawrence College. Currently he is associate professor of creative writing at the University of Arizona, where he is working on a third novel arising from the encounter between a Trappist monk, an immigrant Bengali woman doctor, and a renegade Vietnam veteran marijuana grower. In nonfiction, he is writing a meditation on the role of single people — solitiaries — in a resolutely coupled culture. He serves as well on the faculty of the brief residency program of Spalding University, and is a frequent guest faculty member for intensive writing workshops.