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a novel by

Joel F. Johnson

Coming in 2023 from

Arbitrary Press


Fiction & Poetry

Coming of Age in the Segregated South

Now in his seventies, "Little" Nickerson confronts a childhood he has kept “encased in glass." He narrates a boy’s journey from his suburban home to the textile mills, where workers haggle over the price of a slice of watermelon; to a Black church, where the congregation drums the floor in a thunderous response to a call for equal rights; to a shotgun shack, a book-lined study, and a hidden spring; to a burned-out barn, where men shoot rats, drink beer, and mock the cause of civil rights.

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Advance praise for Never

"Johnson’s eagle-eyed prose perfectly captures the mores and frailties of his characters and their community ...  Johnson manages to bring LaSalle and its people to life in a way that often feels revelatory ... An observant and immersive work about a society in flux."

Collected Poems

“Johnson’s poems always sound as if they’re telling the truths that we can’t usually bring ourselves to admit…one debut not to be missed…Tender yet jarring, cerebral yet visceral.” Kirkus Reviews. Published by Antrim House.

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"She came to our house every day, fed me my bottle as an infant, held my hand at the curb, crushed crackers into my soft-boiled eggs.  Bit commanded a vital place in our home, mother figure and servant, confidant and cook, a stranger I thought I knew."


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