UW News

November 17, 2015

Charles Johnson’s story ‘The Weave’ chosen for 2016 Pushcart anthology

UW News

"The Weave," a story by UW English professor Charles Johnson, will appear in the 2016 "Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses" anthology.

“The Weave,” a story by UW English professor Charles Johnson, will appear in the 2016 “Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses” anthology.

Ieesha, the young African-American woman at the center of Charles Johnson’s short story “The Weave,” takes an unusual action in response to her abrupt, sneeze-caused dismissal from Sassy Hair Salon and Beauty Supplies in Seattle’s Central District — where hair is straightened as well as styled and cut.

“The Weave” has been selected for the prestigious 2016 Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses anthology, the 40th installment in that series. Johnson is a University of Washington professor of English, now emeritus, and the author of 22 books across a 50-year career.

As described by her boyfriend, the story’s unnamed narrator, Ieesha knows her own hair will never be like the “eiderdown-soft wigs, some thick as a pony’s tail” purchased by women in the shop.

“Unstated, but permeating every particle in that exchange of desire, is a profound, historical pain,” Johnson writes in the story, “a hurt based on the lie that the hair one was unlucky enough to be born with can never in this culture be good enough, never beautiful as it is, and must be scorched by scalp-scalding chemicals into temporary straightness. Because if that torment is not endured often from the tender age of even 4 months old, how can one ever satisfy the unquenchable thirst to be desired or worthy of love?”

The story, which touches on a Buddhist theme in keeping with much of Johnson’s work, was first published in The Iowa Review, and then in Johnson’s anthology of stories and reflections, “Taming the Ox,” both in 2014.

The Pushcart Prize, run by editor Bill Henderson since 1976 to celebrate American small presses, is a treasured literary tradition. “Spirit will never be quelled, certainly not by big bucks and bluster,” Henderson writes feistily on the series website. “Each new edition of the Pushcart Prize is evidence of that.”

The honor comes at a busy time for Johnson — also a cartoonist — who is completing a 40-cartoon collection titled “Emery’s World,” based on the books about the boy science wonder he creates with his daughter, Elisheba Johnson. The cartoons will be annotated, Johnson said, “providing commentary for the creative inspiration and science theory or fact behind each drawing.” Also coming soon is a 2016 “Emery’s World of Science” calendar.

“I just love to create, that’s all,” he said in an interview with the Iowa Review about “The Weave” and other work, when asked about the many genres in which he writes. “And all the arts share in common one thing: They are simply about problem-solving and discovery. That process of discovery and problem-solving has been my greatest daily joy in life since childhood.”


To learn more about Johnson and his writing and teaching, visit his personal website or email CChasjohn@aol.com.