|Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-06-01 19:35Z by Steven|
The author of “Pym” talks about his new novel, his love-hate relationship with Twitter and being a black nerd
Mat Johnson is a little apprehensive about his new novel, “Loving Day,” a satire of race relations and identity politics set in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood. While writing it, he thought, “people were going to be pissed off. Black people were going to be pissed off and white people were going to be pissed off, and they were all going to be pissed off for slightly different reasons.” That’s because Johnson’s narrator, Warren Duffy, is “mixed,” the child of a black mother and an Irish-American father; he identifies as black, but his light-colored skin often leads strangers to mistake him for white.
Warren — who has failed as a comics artist, comics store owner and husband — returns to Philly from Wales, where he’s been hiding out from the conundrum of his own identity. He comes back to sell the decrepit mansion he inherited from his recently deceased father, a partially roofless and entirely creepy 18th-century estate house looming over the surrounding ghetto, a defunct “artifact of rich white folks’ attempt at dynasty.” Once there, he discovers he has a teenage daughter, Tal, the result of a one-night stand with a Jewish classmate. Vowing to do right by her, Warren becomes entangled with the Mélange Center, an eccentric organization that runs a charter school for mixed-race people who want to claim multiple identities. Warren calls it “Mulattopia,” and suspects it of being a cult, but Tal does love that school.
Meanwhile, Warren has seen two strange figures darting around corners and into outbuildings on the grounds of his mansion by night. Tal thinks they’re the ghosts of the first interracial couple. Warren is sure they’re just crackheads. Since “Loving Day” is Johnson’s follow-up to his celebrated 2011 novel, “Pym” — a brazen fusion of academic satire and two-fisted Arctic adventure yarn — the truth is likely to be very strange indeed.
I spoke with Johnson recently about his membership in the tribe of black nerds, his love-hate relationship with Twitter and why humor is an indispensable tool when you’re writing about race…
Read the entire interview here.