“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
TED Fellow Mitchell S. Jackson is an all-too-rare success story. He grew up in a neglected neighborhood in Portland, Oregon in the crime-addled 1990s, where his life and the lives of those around him were shadowed by the crack epidemic. Jackson was almost a casualty of those circumstances when he went to prison for selling drugs. With his debut novel, he channels those experiences into eloquent prose that lays bare his heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful story. A true survivor with a powerful gift for words, Jackson has announced himself as a bright new star in literary fiction.
The Residue Years switches between the perspectives of a resourceful young man, Champ, and his drug-addicted mother, Grace. Grace is just out of a drug treatment program, trying to stay clean and get her kids back. Champ is trying to do right by his mom and younger brothers, and dreams of reclaiming the home he and his family once shared. But in his world of few options and little opportunity, selling crack is the only way he knows to achieve his dream. Honest in its portrayal, with cadences that dazzle, The Residue Years signals the arrival of a writer set to awe.
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 is also the author of Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family, out in March 2019. This hybrid—part essay, part memoir, part history—uses stories of Jackson’s family and friends to speak to larger issues in American culture, including the racial history of Oregon, whiteness in America, the prison system, drug addiction, criminality, sex work, violence, and broken families. Jackson examines the conflicts that arise in those who see their dreams beaten back, realize the smallest of victories, and harbor a wavering faith in redemption. Survival Math is Jackson’s microcosm of the struggle to survive in contemporary urban America: the struggle that shaped his life, his community, and the lives of so many other Black men. An endlessly fascinating and lovingly rendered portrayal of the victories and injustices that defined his 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, the Lannan Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), the BreadLoaf Conference, and the Center for Fiction. His writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Salon, and Tin House, among other places. He is a Clinical Associate Professor of Writing at New York University.
For more information on Mitchell S. Jackson, please visit mitchellsjackson.com.