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Dreamer: A Novel

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3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  204 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Set against the tensions of Civil Rights era America, Dreamer is a remarkable fictional excursion into the last two years of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life, when the political and personal pressures on this country's most preeminent moral leader were the greatest. While in Chicago for his first northern campaign against poverty and inequality, King encounters Chaym Smith, w ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published May 11th 2010 by Scribner (first published April 1st 1998)
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Roger DeBlanck
In his novel Dreamer, the distinguished Charles Johnson undertakes the majestic task of fictionalizing the immortal Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Johnson approaches the life, beliefs, and 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 strange doppelganger is introduced by the narrator of the novel, Mathew Bishop. Smith not onl ...more
Carolyn
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
...more
Ben
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,
...more
Mark V.
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.
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.
Derion
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.
Margaret
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.
Sarah
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
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.
Donahuechasd
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.
Lori-linell


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...
Jane
Apr 27, 2010 Jane rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Marguerite
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.
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.
Jason
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.
Bennie
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.
Josh
This guys a pretentious prick but he does solid research and chooses interesting subject matter. Ditto for Middle Passage.
Elly
Giving this book 4 stars not just for the quality of the story but for the questions it personally raised for me.
Steven
Just starting. Wanted to find a book for my flight to New York.
Scott
Scott marked it as to-read
Jul 20, 2015
Diana Hayes
Diana Hayes marked it as to-read
Jul 20, 2015
Deborah Nobles
Deborah Nobles marked it as to-read
Jun 09, 2015
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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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More about Charles R. Johnson...
Middle Passage Oxherding Tale Africans in America: America's Journey through Slavery The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Tales and Conjurations Dr. King's Refrigerator: And Other Bedtime Stories

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