The San Francisco Public Library presents Fenton Johnson for a Launch Party in celebration of his new work, Everywhere Home: A Life in Essays. Fenton will be in conversation with Andrew Lam, author of Birds of Paradise Lost--which was a 2013 California Book Awards-finalist for First Fiction.
Part retrospective, part memoir, Fenton Johnson's collection Everywhere Home: A Life in Essays explores sexuality, religion, geography, the AIDS crisis, and more. Johnson's wanderings take him from the hills of Kentucky to those of San Francisco, from the streets of Paris to the sidewalks of Calcutta. Along the way, he investigates questions large and small: What's the relationship between artists and museums, illuminated in a New Guinean display of shrunken heads? What's the difference between empiricism and intuition?
The collection draws together essays that originally appeared in Harper's, The New York Times, All Things Considered and elsewhere, along with new work. Johnson reports from the front lines of the AIDS epidemic, from Burning Man, from monasteries near and far. His subject matter ranges from Oscar Wilde to censorship in journalism to Kentucky basketball.
Everywhere Home is the latest title in Sarabande's Bruckheimer Series in Kentucky Literature.
Fenton Johnson is the author of the novels The Man Who Loved Birds, Scissors, Paper, Rock, and Crossing the River, and the nonfiction books Keeping Faith and Geography of the Heart. Johnson has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He writes regularly for Harper's, and is a professor in the creative writing programs at the University of Arizona and Spalding University.
The thirteen stories in Birds of Paradise Lost shimmer with humor and pathos as they chronicle the anguish and joy and bravery of America s newest Americans, the troubled lives of those who fled Vietnam and remade themselves in the San Francisco Bay Area. The past memories of war and its aftermath, of murder, arrest, re-education camps and new economic zones, of escape and shipwreck and atrocity is ever present in these wise and compassionate stories. It plays itself out in surprising ways in the lives of people who thought they had moved beyond the nightmares of war and exodus. It comes back on TV in the form of a confession from a cannibal; it enters the Vietnamese restaurant as a Vietnam Vet with a shameful secret; it articulates itself in the peculiar tics of a man with Tourette s Syndrome who struggles to deal with a profound tragedy. Birds of Paradise Lost is an emotional tour de force, intricately rendering the false starts and revelations in the struggle for integration, and in so doing, the human heart.
Andrew Lam is the author of Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora, which won the 2006 PEN Open Book Award, and East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres. Lam is an editor and cofounder of New American Media, an association of over two thousand ethnic media outlets in America. He was a regular commentator on NPR s All Things Consideredfor many years, and was the subject of a 2004 PBS documentary called My Journey Home. His essays have appeared in newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times, The LA Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Baltimore Sun, The Atlanta Journal, theChicago Tribune, Mother Jones, and The Nation, among many others. His short stories have been widely taught and anthologized. Birds of Paradise Lostis his first story collection. He lives in San Francisco.