Charles Johnson Additional Biography


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Reared in a tight-knit Midwestern black community, Charles Johnson remembers his childhood environment as loving and secure. An only child, he often read to fill up his time. Johnson especially loved comic books and spent hours practicing drawing in hopes of becoming a professional cartoonist. To this end he took a two-year correspondence course and was publishing cartoons and illustrations by the time he completed high school.

At the last minute Johnson decided to attend Southern Illinois University rather than art school. There he became passionately drawn to the study of philosophy and to writing. During his first summer vacation he began to pursue another lifelong interest, the martial arts. Before his undergraduate college days were over he had published a book of his own cartoons, Black Humor (1970), had hosted a television series on drawing, and had worked as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. In 1970, he married Joan New, whom he had met two years earlier.

After graduation, Johnson began working as a reporter for the Illinoisan; already, however, he had decided to become a novelist. Over the next two years, with John Gardner (1933-1982) as his mentor, he wrote six “apprentice novels.” Finally, in 1974, he published Faith and the Good Thing, which he had extensively researched while completing his master’s degree in philosophy and writing a thesis on Marxism.

Johnson continued his...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Charles Richard Johnson has played a leading role in expanding the boundaries of African American literature. Johnson has observed that before the 1970’s black fiction was characterized by an “overwhelming technical and thematic one-dimensionality.” In exploring new directions, Johnson has shown that although it is important to identify and work within the tradition of black American literature, writers must not be constrained by preconceptions that limit art to social realism.

Johnson began to draw at an early age. His father disapproved of a career in commercial art, but the cartoonist and writer Lawrence Lariar gave Johnson support and guidance and helped him to realize his ambitions; at the age of seventeen,...

(The entire section is 1070 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Charles Richard Johnson was born in Evanston, Illinois, on April 23, 1948. Johnson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from...

(The entire section is 308 words.)