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Joel F. Johnson was born and raised in Columbus, Georgia, where he attended segregated public schools through sixth grade. He graduated from Harvard College in 1976 with a degree in English & American Literature. In 2013, Kirkus Reviews selected his collection of poetry, Where Inches Seem Miles, as one of the best independent books of the year. Never, a coming-of-age story in the segregated South, is his first novel.  Johnson has an MBA in corporate finance and has been self-employed for twenty-five years. The father of three, he and his wife live in Concord, Massachusetts.

Suggested Interview Questions

  • What does a story about the segregated South in 1962 tell us about life in America today?

  • Never is narrated by a white man who describes his Black maid as "a stranger I thought I knew." What makes her a stranger?

  • A central character is Rob McAllister, the minister of an all-white church. Where does this character come from?

  • How does the author's experience growing up in Columbus, Georgia inform his depiction of the fictional town of LaSalle, Georgia?

  • Why create a fictional town? What is unique about LaSalle?

  • The narrator has sweet memories of growing up in LaSalle, though the town has a notorious past. How do we reconcile our nostalgia for childhood with the hard facts we learn as adults?

  • Johnson is a white writer describing the experiences of a Black maid in the segregated South. Isn't that appropriation? How does one balance creative freedom with respect for experiences of others?

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