Angela Johnson was born in Tuskegee, Ala., but her family moved to a small town in Ohio when she was a child. She began keeping a journal in elementary school after reading Harriet the Spy, and she wrote poetry in high school, but she expected to become either a social worker or a teacher. Johnson began attending classes at Kent State University but developed writer’s block. When she decided not to return to school, she was able to write again. After leaving school, Johnson worked for Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) as a child development worker and wrote stories on the side. Eventually she began writing full-time.
Johnson’s first book, the picture book, Tell Me a Story, Mama, was published in 1989. She published her first young adult novel, Toning the Sweep, in 1993. She continues to publish both picture books and young adult novels, many of which have won awards and have appeared on lists such as “Best Books” (School Library Journal). In 2003, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded Johnson a MacArthur Fellows Program Grant (the MacArthur “genius grant”) in recognition of her creative work.
Angela Johnson’s picture books feature black American children in loving relationships with their families. Her young adult novels depict black American young people struggling to achieve adulthood and deal with issues such as cancer, mental illness, and teenage parenthood. All of her books have an optimistic tone and emphasize individuals’ connectedness to and need for the love and support of family and friends.
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Photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Last updated on Aug 28, 2009.