Prison to the Pen: Introducing New Speaker Mitchell S. Jackson
The Residue Years interweaves two stories. Single mother Grace has just emerged from rehab, longing for a new purpose in sobriety, while her eldest son, Champ—a semi-autobiographical reflection of Jackson himself—starts selling crack to buy back his childhood home, a symbol of happier times. Two sides of the same coin, Grace and Champ fight for a future that’s always just out of reach. The Residue Years won the Ernest J. Gaines Award, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and was hailed as “powerful” and “full of impossible hope” by The New York Times Book Review. It also secured Jackson fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the Center for Fiction. And his nonfiction work about his family, Survival Math, is due in 2017.
In his keynotes, Jackson explores identities of “blackness” and “whiteness” in contemporary America, recounting his own unlikely success story and discussing the value of starting over. Jackson’s struggle—which he conveys with surprising levity—reminds us that we are more than our circumstances. He often speaks in prisons, in youth facilities, and to social programs, reminding those who have faltered that their lives can be theirs to control. When he talks about social justice, his angle is intensely personal: stories from his past recall those who made it out, and those who couldn’t. Ultimately, Jackson shows us that the passions that inspire us can help us overcome the direst of situations—and that with drive, ambition, and a little hope, supposed casualties can become survivors.
To hear keynote speaker Mitchell S. Jackson’s inspiring story at your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.