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Charles R. Johnson
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3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  247 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
"Reading [Johnson's] important new novel, Dreamer, you can't help being stirred up by his truth seeking and by his passion for ideas, because the ideas he is most passionate about are not heady musings on the nature of reality, but ideas to live by, ideas that would help us to become better people and to create a more compassionate world." De
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Published by Canongate Books (first published April 1st 1998)
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Roger DeBlanck
Jan 25, 2012 Roger DeBlanck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
In his novel Dreamer, the distinguished Charles Johnson undertakes the majestic task of fictionalizing the immortal Civil Rights leader of Dr. Martin Luther King. Johnson approaches the life, the beliefs, and the events surrounding King by choosing a daring scenario. He presents two sides of King through the literary device of an alter ego. He creates a character, Chaym Smith, who looks exactly like King. This doppelganger is introduced by the narrator of the novel, Mathew Bishop. Smith not onl ...more
Dec 19, 2012 Ben rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a curious one. Charles Johnson, whose novels always seek the balance between character and commentary, succeeds brilliantly in revealing the interior life of Martin Luther King, and fails utterly at writing a novel.

In his best work, (Middle Passage and Oxherding Tale) Johnson writes about the black experience in America with a keen critical eye for all concerned, and with an equal skill in storytelling and characterization. Here, despite coming up with a brilliant doppelganger premise,
Jul 30, 2016 Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like all good books, this one made me want to learn more, in this case, about Martin Luther King. Johnson's novel takes place in the final two years of King's life, when the struggles for racial and social justice no longer allowed themselves to be contained within the bounds of his non-violent movement. The pivotal figure in the book is a man who can pass for King. Johnson uses this character as an opportunity to reflect upon the distinction between essence and appearance, and upon the continge ...more
Jul 10, 2015 Carolyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, historical
3.5 stars

Bought this after seeing Johnson speak at the UND Writers Conference with my pops. He won the National Book Award for "Middle Passage" in 1990. Really interesting guy. Has a PhD in philosophy, lots of theological/religious allusions in his writing. (Also is a Buddhist who practices martial arts.)

This book is a fictional account of Martin Luther King Jr's 1966 campaign in Chicago...and gives him a "double" (stand in, doppelganger, what have you). Really well-written. Intense. Makes me b
A good historical novel like this one will have you seeing a time period or person in a new light. MLK is a figure whose image is so often used in a very particular way that he had become one-dimensional in my mind. Johnson's fictional characters are well-drawn. We see their development as the book progresses, but we learn of some of the struggles MLK had in his community, in his movement, and in his mind.
Jul 20, 2010 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dreamer is a failed miracle of a book. The narration isn't as focused or invigorating as I might have liked but the book overall is wonderful. Dr. King and his body double. The last days of his struggle. The title--Dremaer. Oxherding Tale by Johnson was more engaging but Dreamer is well worth reading.
Scott Woods
Dec 17, 2011 Scott Woods rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Able to be read on a surface "what if?" level or for a deeper examination of human conditions, "Dreamer" truly rocks with purpose, mystery and import. A look at an era through a fascinating premise and set of characters utilizing the prism of MLK to engage even the least civil rights interested reader.
Mar 19, 2010 Derion rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an amazing work of fiction, written by Charles Johnson, that takes real events from the last days of Martin Luther King Jr., accompanied by Matthew Bishop, and the fictional, somewhat doppelganger character, Chaym Smith. Being an African-American myself, this book has had an eye-opener on how I think about my past and the present state of my people.
Mar 30, 2008 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I remember about the book is that there was a narrator, MLK Jr. and another character who was a double for King but who was not a dreamer. The book was thoughtful, and I remember it was a satisfying read. Johnson is an interesting smart writer. I own his Middle Passage, and, despite my best intentions, have not yet gotten through it.
This book's ending was rather anti-climatic. It certainly serves to illustrate the concept of enjoying the journey rather than being obsessed with the destination. However, many of the concepts are having a more profound effect with the passage of time. Charles Johnson is a brilliant writer.
An interesting premise here, but it doesn't pass the 33-page test. A previous reader took issue (in pencil, dear librarians) with the vocabulary, which does seem uncharacteristic from the public MLK and show-offy.
Mark V.
Feb 17, 2014 Mark V. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Curious to read other "meh" remarks here. To me, it's a spectacular success (whereas I found "Middle Passage" slapdash and infelicitous in how it wedged in its philosophical gloss).

On to "Oxherding Tale," eagerly.
Apr 27, 2010 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of modern history
I have an autographed copy of this novel, purchased years ago at Powell's Book Store in Portland. This fictional account of MLK's final days and the role a stranger might have played in his life was a very interesting read.
Oct 29, 2012 Lori-linell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This was my second time reading Dreamer & I loved it and got more out of it than the first time. An amazing premise: King''s double or more likely shadow side; aspects of personality we all have & coming to terms with our own otherness and outsiderness...
Richard Thomas
For my MFA lit class. Parts of this I really enjoyed, especially the humanizing of MLK. We read Toni Morrison and Charles Johnson, and I prefer Morrison over Johnson for sure.
Nichole Rued
Great for historical context and alternative histories concerning the Civil Rights movement. Not so great in terms of craft. Melodramatic and cliche at times.
Ann Tonks
On the one hand, it's a beautiful exploration of Martin Luther King Jr's life and on the other it's a mystery that I never quite got to grips with.
Jan 15, 2012 Elly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Giving this book 4 stars not just for the quality of the story but for the questions it personally raised for me.
It got off to a good start, but I didn't like the direction it went is after that. I usually like everything Charles Johnson writes.
Tara Brooky
Nov 20, 2016 Tara Brooky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a must-read but very insightful and worth your time.
Jun 14, 2007 Josh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This guys a pretentious prick but he does solid research and chooses interesting subject matter. Ditto for Middle Passage.
Mar 08, 2013 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A profoundly imaginative and beautifully written investigation of the last years of Dr. King and a fictional doppelgänger, this is a haunting and exquisite philosophical novel.
Craig Jorgensen
Craig Jorgensen rated it liked it
Aug 25, 2009
Al Daniel
Al Daniel rated it it was amazing
Jul 15, 2012
Eric Gressman
Eric Gressman rated it really liked it
Sep 11, 2008
Randy rated it really liked it
Sep 08, 2015
Matthew Somoroff
Matthew Somoroff rated it really liked it
Sep 08, 2009
Abby rated it liked it
Nov 13, 2015
Allie rated it liked it
Feb 06, 2016
Emily K.
Emily K. rated it liked it
Oct 30, 2014
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Charles R. Johnson is an American scholar and author of novels, short stories, and essays. Johnson, an African-American, has directly addressed the issues of black life in America in novels such as Middle Passage and Dreamer. Johnson first came to prominence in the 1960s as a political cartoonist, at which time he was also involved in radical politics. In 1970, he published a collection of cartoon
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