“Mitchell Jackson writes into Portland like Edward P. Jones writes into Washington, DC, with his judicious left eye on the full hearts of his characters and his vigilant right eye attuned to the wolf at their door. His classically orchestrated novel, The Residue Years, is suffused with humor, lyricism and compassion…. Jackson is a powerfully confident writer, with an unerring ability to embody voices.”
—From the Whiting Award for Fiction citation
Award-winning and critically acclaimed author Mitchell S. Jackson is a native of Portland, Oregon. Jackson’s work explores his hometown, including the systemic forces that shaped his community, his family, and his early life. That exploration began with a novel titled The Residue Years—a book that announced Jackson as a bright new voice in literary fiction.
The Residue Years earned high praise from The New York Times, The Paris Review, and The Times of London, among many others. The novel won the Ernest J. Gaines Prize 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, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Jackson also won a Whiting Award, one of the country’s most prestigious literary awards for emerging writers.
Jackson’s newest work is Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family. In his hybrid nonfiction—part essay, part memoir, part history—Jackson examines the hardships that shaped his life, his family, and his community. The book serves as a cultural critique of the racial history of Oregon, American whiteness, mass incarceration, sex work, violence, and broken families—phenomena of which Jackson is intimately familiar— and ultimately presents a microcosm of the forces blighting the lives of untold disenfranchised Americans. An endlessly fascinating and lovingly rendered portrayal of the victories and injustices that defined Jackson’s youth, Survival Math is at once elegiac and hopeful.
“With a kind of tenderness not reserved for people who’ve suffered, Jackson’s Survival Math explores more than just the highs and lows of his loved ones, he gets at the texture and nuance, the grit and fight of those grasping onto to the hope of getting through the worst of it. Put another way: this book is dope. Awash in the kind of stories that easily get written as voyeurism, Jackson turns these lives and his own, into an American epic.”
—Reginald Dwayne Betts, author of Bastards of the Reagan Era and A Question of Freedom
Mitchell S. Jackson’s other honors include fellowships from TED, Guggenheim, the Lannan Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), the New York Public Library Cullman Center, the BreadLoaf Conference, Right of Return USA, and the Center for Fiction. His profile of Ahmaud Arbery in Runner’s World, “Twelve Minutes and a Life”, has been nominated for a National Magazine Award for Feature Writing. He is a member of Black Artists for Freedom, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Salon, and Tin House, among other places. He is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Chicago, a columnist for Esquire Magazine, and currently serves on the board of Literary Arts. Jackson is at work on his next novel, John of Watts, which follows the rise and fall of a cult leader in Oregon.here.