“[Mitchell S. Jackson’s] vivid writing, thorough reporting and personal experience… shed light on systemic racism in America.”
—Pulitzer Prize citation
Winner of a 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing, Mitchell S. Jackson is a celebrated cultural critic, journalist, and author. Across genres, Jackson deftly employs an indelible literary voice and inventive forms to explore the personal and the structural: gentrification, race, racism, Black masculinity, justice, intergenerational trauma, and much more.
Jackson won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Magazine Award in Feature Writing for his profile of Ahmaud Arbery in Runner’s World: Twelve Minutes and a Life. A “deeply affecting account” (Pulitzer Prize citation), the essay draws on robust reporting and affective storytelling to bring fullness to not only Arbery’s tragic death but his short life, as well as exploring how the sport of running fails Black Americans. The piece was also adapted into a radio essay for This American Life entitled The Rest of His Life.
As a journalist, Jackson has profiled some of the most prominent Black men in American–Clarence Thomas, Michael B. Jordan, Colson Whitehead, and Chris Rock among them. He is also the first Black columnist in the history of Esquire Magazine, bringing his sharp intellect to the intersections of power and culture that shape America, interrogating subjects ranging from the influence of fashion designer Virgil Abloh and Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars; to the importance of Critical Race Theory and the effects of weakened Miranda rights.
[Survival Math is a] mesmerizing book, full of story, truth, pain, lyricism, humor, and astonishment: the stuff of a difficult life, fully lived, and masterfully transformed into art.”
Jackson’s remarkable voice and incisive criticism are also on display in his long-form work. Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family, a work of hybrid nonfiction—part essay, part memoir, part history—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 intellectually rigorous and lovingly rendered portrayal of the victories and injustices that defined Jackson’s youth, Survival Math is at once elegiac and hopeful. Survival Math was named a best book of 2019 by fifteen publications, including NPR, Time, and BuzzFeed.
His debut, The Residue Years, is an autobiographical novel set in Portland, Oregon during the 1990s, as gentrification and the crack epidemic sweep the city. The novel follows teenage Champ and his mother, Grace, who fight to keep their family and home together as Grace works to stay clean from crack cocaine, while Champ begins selling it to help support the family. The novel announced Jackson as “a fresh new voice in fiction,” (O, The Oprah Magazine). The Residue Years earned high praise from The New York Times, The Paris Review, and The Times of London among many others. It won the Whiting Award and 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’s honors include fellowships from TED, the 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 writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, The Paris Review, and Harpers among other places.
Jackson is a well-regarded speaker who has delivered lectures and keynote addresses all over the world, including the annual TED Conference, the Ubud (Bali) Writers and Readers Festival, and the Sydney Writers’ Festival, as well as at esteemed institutions, among them Yale University, Brown University, Cornell University, and Columbia University. A formerly incarcerated person, Jackson is also a social justice advocate who, as part of his outreach, visits prisons and youth facilities in the United States and abroad.
The John O. Whiteman Dean’s Distinguished Professor at Arizona State University, Jackson serves on the Book Council of the National Book Foundation and the board of Literary Arts, Oregon’s preeminent literary nonprofit. He is at work on his next novel, John of Watts, which follows the rise and fall of a cult leader in Oregon. Jackson’s latest book, Fly: The Big Book of Basketball Fashion, presents the undeniable intersection of cultural commentary, high fashion and basketball. With “stunning photos and spot on cultural commentary, ” (The Root) Fly lays out the fashion history of the league to the present day where athletes are idealized as style icons and activists, figures who inspire conversations beyond how they play and what they wear.here.