Portland Native Mitchell Jackson Wins $50,000 Whiting Award

His debut novel, The Residue Years, was set amid the '90s crack epidemic in Portland.

Portland native Mitchell Jackson—who grew up on the rough streets of Northeast Fremont back when the streets of Northeast Fremont were rough—just picked up a $50,000 Whiting award following his breakout 2013 novel The Residue Years.

The Whiting is a big deal for much more than the money—the award often serves as a coming out party for major new literary talents, a winners list that's included writers like David Foster Wallace, Colson Whitehead, Lydia Davis, Denis Johnson, Mary Karr, and Tony Kushner.

The novel is set amid the '90s crack epidemic not in Chicago or New York or Los Angeles, but amid the black community of one of the country's whitest cities—Jackson's hometown of Portland (he's lived in New York since 2002). The book was in based in part on Jackson's own experiences: He'd begun the book while in jail for a traffic stop that found him in possession of drugs and a gun.

The book made multiple year-end lists nationwide, and was Multnomah County Library's selection as the "Everybody Reads" title for January 2015.

In WW's review of the book, we praised Jackson's "poetic prose drawn from black vernacular" and wrote about the book's its eerie evocations of now-gentrified neighborhoods, "a reminder that Portland's development has fixed up neighborhoods without bettering the people who once called them home."

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