Marlon James


“Books come out of books,” Cormac McCarthy once said. He’s right of course; fiction has always come out of fiction. Sometimes to uncover a marginalized voice, or to humanize a demon (Jane Eyre/Wide Sargasso Sea). Sometimes to make troublingly round, the reassuringly flat (Great Expectations/Jack Maggs). Sometimes to return to the scene of the crime (The Shining/ Doctor Sleep). And sometimes to view a story from back then in a point of view that reflects us now (Don Quixote/ Quichote). All these stories came out of stories that compelled the author to respond. 

This is what you will be doing in this workshop: writing Fiction as a response to Fiction. The dismissed voice, the monster with a soul, the character without agency, the character everybody but you forgot. The villain. The punch line. The caricature. The racist joke. Who can you uncover? What can you take (or reject) and make your own? Which story demands another view? What was merely hinted at, that you could bring to the fore?  Reaction/Fiction is where you will twist, turn and violate, but it will also uncover, re-humanize and dignify.  In this class, the “ending” is just the beginning of where your imagination will take you.


Marlon James won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for A Brief History of Seven Killings, making him the first Jamaican author to take home the U.K.’s most prestigious literary award. In addition to the Man Booker Prize, A Brief History of Seven Killings won the American Book Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the Minnesota Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.  

Marlon James’ first novel, John Crow’s Devil, tells the story of a biblical struggle in a remote Jamaican village in the 1950s. Though rejected 70 times before being accepted for publication, John Crow’s Devil went on to become a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, as well as a New York Times Editor’s Choice. His second novel, The Book of Night Women, is about a slave women’s revolt on a Jamaican plantation in the early 19th century. The work won the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Minnesota Book Award, and was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction, as well as an NAACP Image Award. James’ short fiction and nonfiction have been anthologized in Bronx Noir, The Book of Men: Eighty Writers on How to Be a Man and elsewhere, and have appeared in Esquire, Granta, Harper’s, The Caribbean Review of Books and other publications. His widely read essay, “From Jamaica to Minnesota to Myself,” appeared in the New York Times Magazine. In early 2016 his viral video Are you racist? ‘No’ isn’t a good enough answer received millions of hits. His best-selling book, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, is the first in the Dark Star Trilogy, a fantasy series set in African legend. Black Leopard, Red Wolf was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award in the Fiction category.

In April 2019 Marlon was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2019 in the Pioneers category.

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