Fenton Johnson’s most recent novel is The Man Who Loved Birds (The University Press of Kentucky), which was published concurrently with new editions of his earlier award-winning novels Scissors, Paper, Rock and Crossing the River. He has published as well Geography of the Heart: A Memoir and Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey among Christian and Buddhist Monks. His collection of essays Everywhere Home: A Life in Essays was selected for the Bruckheimer Series in Kentucky Literature published by Sarabande Press and will be forthcoming in 2017. Going It Alone: On the Dignity and Challenge of Solitude (W.W. Norton), based on his most recent Harper’s Magazine cover essay, will be published in 2018. Geography received the American Library Association and Lambda Literary Awards for best LGBT Creative Nonfiction, while Keeping Faith received a Lambda Literary and Kentucky Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction. Johnson has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was recently featured on Terry Gross’s Fresh Air and writes regularly for Harper’s Magazine. He teaches in the creative writing programs at the University of Arizona and Spalding University.
Fenton Johnson was born ninth of nine children into a Kentucky whiskey-making family of storytellers. His latest books are The Man Who Loved Birds, whose writing was supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship. In an unprecedented commitment to a Kentucky native, in conjunction with The Man Who Loved Birds University Press of Kentucky will reissue his previous novels Crossing the River and Scissors, Paper, Rock, each with introductions by prominent authors and with new afterwords by Johnson. Scissors was nominated for the San Francisco Bay Area Book Reviewers Award and the Boston Review Fisk Award for best fiction.
Johnson is also the author of Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey among Christian and Buddhist Monks, which addresses what it means to a skeptic to have and to keep faith. Keeping Faith received a Lambda Literary Award for best gay/lesbian nonfiction as well as a Kentucky Literary Award for creative nonfiction / outstanding literary achievement.
His Geography of the Heart: A Memoir received the American Library Association and Lambda Literary Awards for best gay nonfiction. Harper’s Magazine featured Going It Alone: The Dignity and Challenge of Solitude as its cover essay / Folio of the April 2015 issue. Going It Alone will be published in book-length form by W.W. Norton in 2018. He has published essays and literary journalism in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and a wide range of newspapers and magazines on issues involving social justice, faith and spirituality, environmentalism, and human rights. Sarabande Press will publish his New and Selected Essays in 2017.
Johnson has also received National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowships in fiction and creative nonfiction, an Arizona Arts Council award, a Stegner Fellowship in fiction from Stanford University, and a Michener Fellowship from the Iowa Writers Workshop.
Johnson has an active career in writing narration for independent media, including radio, documentaries, and personal films. He has contributed commentaries to National Public Radio and wrote the narration for award-winning documentaries, among them Lourdes Portillo’s La Ofrenda: Days of the Dead and the southeast Appalachian cultural center Appalshop’s Stranger with a Camera, recipient of a Columbia DuPont Award in journalism and best documentary at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.
Johnson has taught in the creative writing programs at San Francisco State University, Columbia University, New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, and the University of California-Davis. Currently he is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Arizona and serves on the faculty of Spalding University’s low-residency MFA Program.