The Center for Fiction Emerging Writer Fellow Chantal V. Johnson’s debut novel follows Vivian, a thirtysomething lawyer advocating for the mentally ill while managing the aftereffects of her bad childhood the only ways she knows how: through dieting, dating, dark humor, and friendship. After a challenging family reunion, Vivian makes a series of choices that will change her life. Post-traumatic is a darkly funny novel about survival, featuring a singular main character readers won’t soon forget.
Johnson joined author Torrey Peters (Detransition, Baby) for a lively discussion about the origins and themes of Post-traumatic, a novel that Elif Batuman calls “deeply original, socially important, [and] psychologically revelatory.”
By Chantal V. Johnson
Published by Little, Brown and Company
To the outside observer, Vivian is a success story—a dedicated lawyer who advocates for mentally ill patients at a New York City psychiatric hospital. Privately, Vivian contends with the memories and aftereffects of her bad childhood—compounded by the everyday stresses of being a Black Latinx woman in America. She lives in a constant state of hypervigilant awareness that makes even a simple subway ride into a heart-pounding drama.
For years, Vivian has self-medicated with a mix of dating, dieting, dark humor and smoking weed with her BFF, Jane. But after a family reunion prompts Vivian to take a bold step, she finds herself alone in new and terrifying ways, without even Jane to confide in, and she starts to unravel. Will she find a way to repair what matters most to her?
A debut from a stunning talent, Post-traumatic is a new kind of survivor narrative, featuring a complex heroine who is blazingly, indelibly alive. With razor-sharp prose and mordant wit, Chantal V. Johnson performs an extraordinary feat, delivering a psychologically astute story about the aftermath of trauma that somehow manages to brim with warmth, laughter, and hope.
Chantal V. Johnson
Chantal V. Johnson
Chantal V. Johnson is a tenant lawyer and writer. A graduate of Stanford Law School and a 2018 Emerging Writer Fellow at The Center for Fiction, she lives in New York.
Photo Credit: Noah Barrow
Torrey Peters is the author of the novel Detransition, Baby, published by One World/Random House, which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. She is also the authors of the novellas Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones and The Masker. She has an MFA from the University of Iowa and a Masters in Comparative Literature from Dartmouth. Torrey rides a pink motorcycle and splits her time between Brooklyn and an off-grid cabin in Vermont.
Photo Credit: Natasha Gornik