Episode 31 - Mitchell S. Jackson

A native of Portland, Oregon, Mitchell Jackson is the author of The Residue Years, a novel set in inner northeast Portland neighborhoods in the 1990s. Based on Jackson’s own life, the novel tells the story of Grace, a mother battling crack addiction, and Champ, her son, who sells the drug that has ravaged his family and his neighborhood.

The Residue Years, which was Multnomah County Library’s Everybody Reads selection for 2015, just won the prestigious Whiting Award, with a prize of $50,000. Jackson teaches at NYU and Columbia and is also the author of Oversoul, a collection of stories and essays. 

Mitchell now lives in Brooklyn, New York. He received an M.A. in writing from Portland State University and an M.F.A in Creative Writing from New York University.  

He has been the recipient of fellowships from TED,  the Lannan Foundation, The Center For Fiction, and The Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference. His novel also won The Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence and was a finalist for the Center For Fiction’s Flaherty-Dunnan First novel prize, the PEN/ Hemingway award for first fiction, The Hurston / Wright Legacy Award for best fiction by a writer of African descent; it was long-listed for the William Saroyan International Prize for writing and the Chautauqua Prize, and named an “Honor Book” by the BCALA. 

Jackson has become a well-regarded speaker who was read and/or and lectured at institutions including Brown University, Columbia University, Yale University, Middlebury College, and UMASS; at events including The Brooklyn Book Festival, The Miami Book Festival, and the Sydney Writers’ Festival; at various adult prisons and youth facilities; and for organizations including The Pathfinders of Oregon, The PEN / Faulkner Foundation, and The Volunteers of America. He serves on the faculty of New York University and Columbia University.

In this conversation, a part of the MHCC Mouths of Others literary speaker series, Mitchell discusses his life growing up in "The Whitest  City in America," the surprising links between the social constructs of "whiteness" and "blackness," the need to be visible when the culture wants to blank you, and how his story of transformation is one in which he is both a casualty and a survivor.