Fenton Johnson

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John Fenton Johnson
Born (1953-10-25) October 25, 1953 (age 61)
Kentucky, United States
Pen name Fenton Johnson
Occupation author
Nationality American

John Fenton Johnson was born ninth of nine children into a Kentucky whiskey-making family with a strong storytelling tradition.


His most recent book Keeping Faith: A Skeptic's Journey draws on time spent living as a member of the monastic communities of the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky and the San Francisco Zen Center as a means to examining what it means to a skeptic to have and keep faith. Keeping Faith weaves frank conversations with Trappist and Buddhist monks with a history of the contemplative life and meditations from Johnson's experience of the virtue we call faith. It received the 2004 Kentucky Literary Award for Nonfiction and the 2004 Lambda Literary Award for best GLBT creative nonfiction.

In February 2016, University Press of Kentucky will mark Johnson's place in the literature of the state, region, and nation by publishing a new novel,The Man Who Loved Birds, at the same time that it reissues his earlier novels Crossing the River and Scissors, Paper, Rock. Johnson is also the author of three cover essays in Harper's Magazine, most recently (April, 2015) Going It Alone: The Dignity and Challenge of Solitude, available for reading through his webpage. .


He has received awards from the Wallace Stegner and James Michener Fellowships in Fiction and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in both fiction and creative nonfiction. He has also received a Kentucky Literary Award, two Lambda Literary Awards for best creative nonfiction, as well as the American Library Association's Stonewall Book Award for best gay/lesbian nonfiction. He received a 2007 fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation to support completion of his third novel and to begin research and writing on a nonfiction project.



  • Crossing the River (1991), Birch Lane Press; (February, 2016) University Press of Kentucky
  • Scissors, Paper, Rock (1994), Washington Square Press; (February, 2016) University Press of Kentucky
  • The Man Who Loved Birds (February, 2016), University Press of Kentucky



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