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Loving Day

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From the author of the critically beloved Pym comes a ruthlessly comic and moving tale of a man discovering a lost daughter, confronting an elusive ghost, and stumbling onto the possibility of utopia.

"In the ghetto there is a mansion, and it is my father's house."

Warren Duffy has returned to America for all the worst reasons: His marriage to a beautiful Welsh woman has come apart; his comics shop in Cardiff has failed; and his Irish American father has died, bequeathing to Warren his last possession, a roofless, half-renovated mansion in the heart of black Philadelphia. On his first night in his new home, Warren spies two figures outside in the grass. When he screws up the nerve to confront them, they disappear. The next day he encounters ghosts of a different kind: In the face of a teenage girl he meets at a comics convention he sees the mingled features of his white father and his black mother, both now dead. The girl, Tal, is his daughter, and she’s been raised to think she’s white.

Spinning from these revelations, Warren sets off to remake his life with a reluctant daughter he’s never known, in a haunted house with a history he knows too well. In their search for a new life, he and Tal struggle with ghosts, fall in with a utopian mixed-race cult, and ignite a riot on Loving Day, the unsung holiday for interracial lovers.

A frequently hilarious, surprisingly moving story about blacks and whites, fathers and daughters, the living and the dead, Loving Day celebrates the wonders of opposites bound in love.

287 pages, Hardcover

First published May 26, 2015

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About the author

Mat Johnson

46 books415 followers
Mat Johnson is an American writer of literary fiction who works in both prose and the comics format. In 2007, he was named the first USA James Baldwin Fellow by United States Artists.

Johnson was born and raised in the Germantown and Mount Airy communities in Philadelphia.

His mother is African American and his father is Irish Catholic. He attended Greene Street Friends School, West Chester University, University of Wales, Swansea, and ultimately received his B.A. from Earlham College. In 1993 he was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. Johnson received his M.F.A. from Columbia University School of the Arts (1999).

Johnson has taught at Rutgers University, Columbia University, Bard College, and The Callaloo Journal Writers Retreat. He is now a permanent faculty member at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. Johnson lives in Houston.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 572 reviews
Profile Image for Meredith (Trying to catch up!).
815 reviews12.7k followers
November 13, 2016
Loving Day is about one man’s quest to understand racial identity in America. In doing so, he comes to embrace his heritage and develop his own identity.

Warren Duffy’s life is in shambles. Recently divorced, Warren moves from Wales to Germantown, Pennsylvania, where he grew up. Broke and reeling from the failure of his marriage and failed comic bookstore business, his plan is to burn down the dilapidated mansion that he inherited from his later father and use the insurance money to start over. However, while attending a comic book convention, his life is turned upside down by the revelation that he has a 17 year old daughter, Tal.

Tal has been raised to believe that she is white. Warren, the son of a white father and black mother, is light skinned and resembles more of an Irish man, identifies as a black man. Horrified that Tal identifies as white, Warren makes it a mission to have his daughter learn about her black heritage and culture. He takes Tal on a tour of different tours of area schools and she persuades him to let her go the Mélange Center for Multiracial Life. Tal gets quickly sucked into the world of Mélange, whereas Warren remains resistant and views the institution as a cult. He fights to the end against Mélange, and finally makes peace with his past.

Loving Day is an enjoyable read, filled with humor and a lot of heart.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,782 reviews14.2k followers
June 29, 2015
A very mixed read for me. I enjoyed the dark humor, the fact that this is based on Loving Day, and the fact that much of this seems autobiographical.

A man confused about where he fits in, with a black mother and an Irish father. He has always identified with his blackness, although he is light skinned. Divorced, returning to the city he was raised in after the death of his father, he is confronted with a very changed neighborhood and the wreck of a house. He soon finds out he also has a seventeen year old daughter, who is darker than him and raised in the Jewish faith. So far so good, but after the first half it becomes more confusing. Many characters, too many subplots and until the end, which I rushed, he lost me.

So a mixed read. I think he tried to do too many things and it left this reader confused.

ARC from Netgalley.
Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book2,134 followers
January 30, 2019
Amazing first half. After that the book still hums along with humor--the scenes and events aren't necessarily all plausible and plot-related, but they are still very, very funny.

The more I think about this book, the more I love it, actually. I love that Mat Johnson wrote a book full of love and joy about racial identity politics, a topic that not very many people feel confident to laugh about. I revisited the novel just this afternoon, and realized that it was one of my most joyful reads of 2015.
Profile Image for Eilonwy.
826 reviews207 followers
July 15, 2015
Warren Duffy is having a thirty-something crash. His marriage to a Welsh woman has fallen apart because he's not ready for fatherhood and her clock is ticking, and his "career" as a comic book illustrator and seller has tanked. With nowhere else to go, he ends up in the mansion his father was renovating in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia ... only to find himself suddenly presented with a 17-year-old Jewish daughter (who has darker skin than he's got), and facing a full-blown racial identity crisis.
I liked this book all right. But I really wanted to like it better. :-(

Warren is a biracial guy who identifies as black, but is always being taken for white, which bothers him no end. That's mostly what this book is about, and the constant, uncomfortable awareness and judgement of race, and skin shading, and hair texture, and speech patterns, makes for a strong commentary throughout the story. Warren is appalled by how much Tal, his daughter, identifies as white, and is determined to immerse her into black culture. Instead, they end up involved with Mélange, a collection of mixed-race folk trying to encourage each other to embrace both sides of their families, which allows for a lot of pain, and awkwardness, and humor in the writing. This whole aspect of the book was sharply done.

But the rest of the plot.... The rest of the plot only reminds me why I don't read much literary fiction. Warren is a bit of a dreary guy, aside from his passion to be as black as possible. Tal manages to be a mostly believable teenager, but while some of the scenes between her and Warren were note-perfect and others got as far as being touching, I kept finding this whole story line feeling more like a plot device than anything organic. Tal exists mostly to force Warren to grow up and stop staring at his own navel (because obviously no one can manage that without a kid, or something like that). There's a bit of "romance," but it's dreary adult romance, with no flirting or giddy rush or anything fun. It feels like Work. And then there's a weird mystical/supernatural twist late in the story that only felt jarring and out of place to me. The book just didn't quite gel as a whole -- it felt stuck together, and I could see all the tape.

I might reread this book someday for the racial aspect. But not because I want to spend any time revisiting these characters, or because I cared about the things that happened to them. So it's a solid three stars.
Profile Image for La Tonya  Jordan.
295 reviews89 followers
December 11, 2015
Biracial, a person of mixed heritage, half black and half European, a little Indian, African and European this is what mulattoes call themselves. And, if all else fails call yourself Puerto Rican. This is a very funny, witty, and cleverly written book about finding your racial identity for people of mixed heritage.

Warren Duffy has a black mother and an Irish father. He is pale enough to pass for white. But, he was raised in Germantown, a black section of Philadelphia, and to identify black (no questions asked). The humor comes in when he meets the Mulattopians who want to find their place in society to identify with their holistic self. From this point, Warren and his daughter, Tal, take on a journey of awaking that includes an historic house and ghosts Tal is positive are the first interracial couple. As you read this book prepare to laugh at people who in the end are nothing more than people.

"So you had your first divorce. That just means you a man now. Which kind was it? She stop loving you, or you stop loving her?" "It wasn't like that," I tell him. Sirleaf grips me closer. "Oh hell no. I hope it wasn't one of those where you both still love each other, but it's broke anyway. Those are the worst. My first, fourth marriages, they were like that."
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,363 followers
May 17, 2015
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy of Loving Day. 3 1/2 stars. I had never heard of Loving Day -- the date -- until half way through this book, when the narrator explained that Loving Day falls on June 12th every year and marks the anniversary of the 1967 decision in which the Supreme Court struck down the remaining anti miscegenation laws in a number of US states. Loving was the last name of Mildred and Charles Loving who were charged under anti miscegenation laws in Virginia. So that's the very interesting backdrop to the novel. But I'm not sure what to make of this book. It is narrated by Warren, who is a mixed race man in his mid 30s -- a comic book illustrator who has recently inherited a decrepit mansion in urban Philadelphia from his father. Warren discovers that he has a 17 year old daughter -- Tal. Tal comes to live with him in the mansion. Having grown up with her Jewish grandfather, Tal does not know about her African American background, and Warren sets out to find the right school for her. He finds a school set up in trailers in a public park that is run by an assortment of interesting mixed race characters -- the Melange academy. And the rest of the book is taken up with Tal and Warren's relationship with each other and the staff of the Melange school, and their attempt to find a place for the school -- which is a bit of an obvious metaphor for the dislocation of these characters. But describing the story is really besides the point and makes it sound like the story takes itself a bit too seriously. On the contrary, Loving Day reads like a romp -- mostly using a parodic style with poignant earnest moments. The writing is excellent, and the exploration of race and what it means is at times edgy and certainly interesting. But the story gets messy about two thirds of the way in and I found that my interest was waning and the book started to feel like a one trick pony. But it finds its footing again at the very end. I don't think this is for everyone but in the end there was enough to Loving Day that I can say that it was well worth the read.
Profile Image for Phyllis | Mocha Drop.
359 reviews2 followers
April 13, 2015
I loved Loving Day - it is a funny, thought-provoking romp based in the City of Brotherly Love that will definitely promote discussions on race and ethnicity in America. Steeped in satire and stereotypes, the novel’s protagonist, Warren Duffy, is a lovable character who seemingly can not catch a break: he’s recently divorced, unemployed, orphaned, and nearly broke. His Irish American father has recently died and Warren returns to Philadelphia to settle family affairs, including his inheritance: his childhood home - a debilitated, haunted historical mansion in the middle of a decaying urban neighborhood. He discovers what initially appears to be crackheads in/around the home, but before he can gain his bearings, he falls unexpectedly into fatherhood, finds love with a beautiful, yet aloof, woman and unknowingly joins a “cult.”

Johnson cleverly creates Warren as a mixed-race man who identifies as African American, yet looks Caucasian. He gives us enough scenarios in first person, so the reader can understand his views, conflicts, and issues which stem from his need to belong and be accepted within a group. Having spent time abroad and marrying a European woman also allows him to compare and contrast European and American racial experiences. Acknowledging the ‘one drop’ rule, he encourages his Jewish daughter (whose recent discovery that her paternal grandmother was African American) to embrace all aspects of her ethnicity although he fails to fully do so himself. The result is enrolling her into the Melance School - a private school focusing on the needs and education of mixed race children. Initially, it sounds great: it encourages its members to acknowledge all aspects of their heritage and debunk conventional (and limited) rules regarding American race categories. He soons finds that traditional American views clash with such thinking. Conflicts arise and bring the novel to an appropriately explosive, yet hilarious, climax ironically on Loving Day - an annual June 12 celebration which recognizes the historic Supreme Court decision sparked by the Mildred and Richard Loving case which eventually deemed miscegenation laws unconstitutional.

It’s a fresh, smart, entertaining view on a controversial subject. It would be a great read for book clubs.
Profile Image for Monica **can't read fast enough**.
1,033 reviews338 followers
March 6, 2017
I had a difficult time deciding how I felt about Loving Day when I read it back in September of last year. There are some very funny, laugh out loud moments in this story; especially in the beginning. There are moments of poignancy that made me think about how difficult it could be to have your outside appearance not fit with how you feel on the inside. Just how much our individual identities are often tied to our skin color and even how attractive others perceive us to be is often much more important than most of us want to admit. In the case of Warren's daughter, to live your life believing that you are one thing only to be thrust into an identity you have no idea how to relate to is jarring and makes her angry and defensive. Tal, like many angsty teenagers, enjoys pushing her father's buttons as punishment for everything that is happening in her life. She enjoys saying and doing things to punish Warren, who has no idea what to do as a father, for things that are both in and out of his control. The interactions between Tal and Warren are sometimes uncomfortable and aggravating, but pretty realistic. These two completely autonomous people are thrust together and forced to forge a relationship out of very little commonality.

However, there are parts of the story that I had trouble connecting with. The mystical/paranormal element felt off and even though part of the story from the beginning, it felt wedged in and didn't fit well. The school/community that is supposed to be a haven for biracial/multiracial people struggling to find their own 'true' identities also came off as a bit odd in the way that it was created. I went into this one expecting to love it, but I just couldn't get there. Loving Day is the first book that I have read by Mat Johnson and although I didn't love Loving Day I will pick up another book by Mat Johnson.

You can find me at:
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Profile Image for Monica.
621 reviews631 followers
December 21, 2015
Quirky, funny, interesting and thoughtful. This book was a bit of "a year in the life" of a biracial (white and African American) young man (Warren) who discovers that he has a nearly grown daughter (Tal) with a Jewish girl from high school. Other than the sex, he had no real connection with the mother, but 17 years and one failed marriage later, he finds that having a daughter gave him purpose. She made him matter. The rub here is that Tal did not know she had any African-American blood. She was raised as white and didn't know her father. Throughout the book the father/daughter connection grows and both are confronted with and exploring racial identity. The father who looks white and enjoys white privilege, but identifies as black. Tal who finds out she has black ancestry starts to explore her roots. The sledgehammer in the book is a charter school specifically for biracial kids. The school, the administrators, the teachers, and students provide the vehicles in which to explore most points of view presented. Warren's childhood, black (or rather less, overtly racial mixed) friend Tosha is used to provide the "black" point of view. The book title refers to a celebration of the date of the Supreme Court ruling for Loving vs the Commonwealth of Virginia in which it became legal to marry someone of a different race in the United States.

This is a light book. The themes are explored in an amusing, sometimes ironic and non-confrontational way. The characters do not really go through any period of adjustment to any of the huge revelations in their lives. Tal seemed to adjust to her father and biracial-ness almost immediately. The struggles between father and daughter in this book are for control in their relationship with each other, not acceptance or abandonment or finding out you are part black ect. In short, very tepid and unrealistic. The exploration of biracial identity was very interesting, but also very shallow. There was little written about Tal's Jewish upbringing and background, nor were Warren's Irish roots sufficiently explored. Even the exploration of the African-American connections were quite light. I didn't read any evidence of internal struggle while they explored their identities. It would seem that the only struggles they had were as human beings not as biracial people. The implication being that the experience of being an "other" is universal. What kind of "other" doesn't seem to matter. In fact, one of the characters says as much toward the end of the book. Considering the overarching theme of the book, that strikes me as meh. This could also be one of the more interesting aspects of the book. Johnson writes in a way that lets the reader project their own worldview on the characters. I read the book and in my mind, most of the biracial characters were very dominantly African-American. I can envision someone reading this book and projecting the characters with very dominant white characteristics. I'm undecided as to whether or not that is the genius of the author or a shortcoming. The characters as a blank canvas upon which the reader can project their own biases and prejudices. The ability to project means to me that the characters are incomplete; not fully drawn. In my mind for a book to be truly meaningful, the author needed to take a position and make it clear.

Overall I think this was a great summer read. I don't think it's bound for the classics shelf, but it was a positive, interesting and sufficiently challenging book.

almost 4 stars
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,639 reviews2,155 followers
February 24, 2016
This book belongs in that literary tradition of hapless protagonists who rarely act but are often acted upon, who keep finding themselves in a tight spot, who are surrounded by larger-than-life characters, and who inevitably muck it all up when they do try to change the course of their lives. But instead of being yet another hapless protagonist, Warren is a biracial man who identifies as black but passes as white. And every single thing that happens in LOVING DAY has something to do with racial (or biracial) identity.

Not quite satire, but not quite realism, the novel walks an unusual line, never letting you pin down what it actually stands for. But there's no way to read this book without looking at race and identity in new ways.

The clash at the center of the book, where Warren must decide to send his newly-discovered teenage daughter to either a school that celebrates blackness and eschews all things white, or a school that embraces biracial identity and gives equal meaning to both sides of one's heritage. Everyone here is a little unhinged, and yet they all make plenty of valid points. Johnson isn't going to make this simple or straightforward, but it's certainly going to be interesting.

Because this is one of those books where lots of frustrating things happen, it may be harder for some readers. (I actually really struggle with this kind of book, but found this one had so much to offer that I couldn't begrudge it.)
Profile Image for Jonathan K (Max Outlier).
644 reviews130 followers
July 26, 2020
An interesting idea, but I found it difficult to engage with the characters who all seem to be angry about being mixed ethnicity. On the positive side, the characters are unusual but overall the story lacked the chemistry and depth I had hoped for. With so many racially based stories, this one is weak. Not much else to say about it.
Profile Image for Britt.
111 reviews56 followers
March 30, 2018
I don't know what all I expected from this book. It tackles many topics and I appreciate the way that the author constructed such an intricate fabric of characters and obstacles. I would read this book in a year or so as I am sure that my understanding will change.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,996 reviews
October 5, 2015
This had promise, with an opening line like "In the ghetto there is a mansion, and it is my father's house." The concept is interesting and thought provoking, but the plot just lost me as it got weirder and I couldn't get into it.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,095 reviews73 followers
February 23, 2015
ARC for review.

Warren Duffy is a mixed-race, recently-divorced, just-returned-ex-pat, minor league comic book writer. His divorce and the death of his father bring him back to his old neighborhood, Germantown in Philadelphia. His father had purchased, and was restoring an decrepit mansion in Germantown. With little money and few choices, Warren moves in, hoping to get it suitable for sale. In the mean time he needs money to live on, so he goes to a paid gig at a comic book convention, where he's placed with the other black cartoonists in the "Urban" section versus with the big boys who write and illustrate for Spiderman, Superman and the like.

This convention, though, is more important for the two people he meets there....first, a daughter he never knew existed, from a brief relationship with a white high school girlfriend - she's now seventeen, her mother is dead and she's become to much for her ailing grandfather to handle, so she comes to live with Warren (nothing like being thrust into instant parenthood). Tal claims she didn't know her father was black until she met Warren. She wants to leave school and pursue a dance career, while her grandfather and Warren want her to graduate from high school. This dovetails very nicely with the second person Warren meets at the convention, a mixed race woman named Sunita who calls Warren out on his identification as black when he is mixed race.

Sunita appears again as Warren and Tal begin the search for an acceptable school - they live in a poor area of town, so public school is not an option and Tal refuses to go back to her all Jewish school. They visit an all-black school, but Tal refuses it, then they are directed to the Melange Center, a private school for mixed race children.

And what a school it is - they are squatting on public park land and the school is made up of trailers that are ready to be moved at any moment. And Sunita works there. Tal and Warren both find a sort of home there (he teaches to supplement the tuition cost). As they become more involved both explore what it means to be bi-racial, Warren moves further away from his original and long held position that "there's Team White, and there's Team Black, okay? You probably didn't even know you were on Team White, before, most of Team White's members never do. They just think they're 'normal.' But if you're black and you go with Team White, that makes you a sellout. A traitor. And plus, you'll never be accepted as a full member if they know the truth about you. It's all good though. Because there's Team Black where, okay, you may have to work sometimes to be accepted if you look like us, but you're (sic) membership is clearly stated. In the bylaws."

Ultimately, though, the Melange Center encompasses more and more of their lives - is it a school or a way of life?

Johnson is a great writer and he populates his novel with believable main characters and wonderful secondary characters (Tosha, George, Spider, Roslyn). The book is a bit longer than necessary, but it's an interesting look at what it means to be bi-racial in today's society and a really good read, besides.
Profile Image for Scott Rhee.
1,886 reviews74 followers
February 28, 2022
In 1958 a young woman named Mildred married a man named Richard Loving in Washington, D.C. They were both promptly arrested after returning to their hometown of Richmond, VA. Their crime? Mildred was a black woman and Richard was a white man.

Interracial marriage wasn’t just frowned upon in 1958, it was actually a crime in many states, punishable by jail time or, in the case of this young couple, forced expulsion from the state in which they lived.

They sued the state in a now-famous U.S. Supreme Court case and won. The landmark decision, Loving vs. Virginia, ended all miscegenation laws in the remaining 16 states that had them. While not an official holiday, Loving Day---June 12, the day the Supreme Court made the decision---has become a celebration of interracial love and marriage.

In Mat Johnson’s funny and poignant new novel, “Loving Day”, his protagonist, Warren Duffy, a bi-racial middle-aged comic book artist, has very little to celebrate. His comic book shop in Cardiff, Wales, failed miserably along with his marriage, and he has returned to the United States to attend his white father’s funeral.

His inheritance is a dilapidated mansion in the middle of Philadelphia’s ghetto. It was supposed to be a gift to him from his father, but his father was never able to finish renovating it. Now, the once-grand mansion is literally going to ruin and has become a hang-out for some of the city’s zombie-like crackheads; it is a physical manifestation of Warren’s own ruined life. He sleeps in a tent in the main bedroom because the ceiling has a giant hole in it.

The only bright spot in his life is the sudden appearance of a seventeen-year-old daughter, Tal, the product of a brief relationship with a rich white Jewish girl during his wild teenage years.

Both father and daughter are suffering from severe identity crises. Their only hope may lie in a “school” in the middle of the park. In actuality, it is a commune consisting of trailers, RVs, and tents inhabited by people of bi-and multi-racial backgrounds. It is, as Warren and Tal slowly discover, a mulatto utopia: a Mulattopia.

Who knew, though, that trying to make peace with one’s genetic heritage would cause such an uproar among the city’s black and white population?

Johnson’s novel is as appropriate as it is humorous and heart-breaking; a contemporary “Invisible Man” if Ralph Ellison had been raised on comic books and video games. In it, Johnson examines the absurdity of the notion that, in this country at least, one drop of black (or Asian, Latino, Jewish, etc.) blood forever pigeonholes you in that particular race, at the expense of any other genetic heritage you may carry.

Warren’s father was Irish, and his mother was black. By some twist of genetic fate, Warren was born with fair skin and Caucasian features. He doesn’t look black, but he identifies himself as black because that’s what he thinks society expects of him. When he begins to realize that he is more than the sum of all of his parts, the negative reactions from his friends and loved ones shock him. His black friends call him a “sell-out” and a disappointment to his race, while his white friends awkwardly don’t know how to treat him. It never crosses their minds to treat him like a human being.

“Loving Day” is a must-read, both as an entertaining novel about fathers and daughters and finding one’s place in the world, but also because it adds a fresh and interesting perspective to the on-going national dialogue about race and racism.
Profile Image for Judy.
1,710 reviews295 followers
September 29, 2016
If ever there was a year to read novels about racial issues in America, this would be it. So I am. I read The Sellout in March; Homegoing in July, and now Loving Day.

Set in Philadelphia and in some ways similar to The Sellout, this one is more focused on the mixed race experience. Of course, if we didn't suffer so severely from racism in this country, being racially mixed would not be a problem.

Mat Johnson is a versatile writer who can move effortlessly between humor and serious heartfelt stuff. Loving Day mostly pokes fun at the issues it raises but this author is not as relentless in his satire as was Paul Beatty in The Sellout.

Warren Duffy is an Irish/African American mix who does not look black. He is also a less than successful comic/graphic novel artist and recently divorced from his Welsh wife. His Irish father has died and left him a rundown mansion, once a historic landmark, that now lies in the heart of Philadelphia's ghetto.

He returns to the City of Brotherly Love with plans to complete the renovation his father started and sell the house, because naturally he is nearly broke. One thing you learn pretty early on is that planning is not Warren's strong suit. Soon enough he learns he has a half-Jewish teenage daughter he never knew he had. The disappointing wreckage of his life so far begins trending toward disaster.

As this confused guy decides he should be a responsible father to Tal, ensuring she learns about her black heritage and gets an education, he changes the plan to burning down the house and collecting the insurance. If you read the book, you will find out how that works out for him.

The plot takes off on the first page and never sags. However it is the nuanced particulars of his mixed race characters (the Sunflowers, the One-droppers, the Oreos, the multiracial humanists, and the militants) that give this novel depth as well as intelligence.

It also has ghosts!
Profile Image for Londa.
169 reviews2 followers
May 18, 2015
Mat Johnson uses his unique humor to shed light on the dilemmas faced by biracial people in the United States. I found myself laughing out loud several times as I quickly read through this tale of one man's quest to become the parent to a child he didn't know existed. I highly recommend it and will seek out more of his work!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. No other consideration was offered, expected or received.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
633 reviews43 followers
July 9, 2015
Blended Americans

“Loving Day” is a timely book. It deals with race, racism, and the sometimes amorphous definitions of both. The main character is a cartoon illustrator who’s the product of a black woman and an Irish man so he’s very light and often not recognized as being African American though that’s the identity he internalizes. The story is about his losses but also some surprise additions that bring challenges to his life. Along the way he falls in with a group of people with ambiguous heritage similar to his own and his journey of redefining himself begins.

I know this all sounds like it could be volatile but at heart this is a sweet coming of age story. It’s never too late to grow up and become mature or at least more mature.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
9,813 reviews418 followers
Shelved as 'library-to-read'
February 14, 2018
So I guess I need to learn something. Tal is 3/4 white, and is passing, and knows nothing of her black heritage. So what makes her black? Yes I know about the 'one-drop' rule, but wasn't that a bad thing? I hope my library has this book and that the author helps me overcome my ignorance. Sincerely.
Profile Image for Allen Adams.
517 reviews31 followers
June 17, 2015

As a culture, we’ve gotten better about discussing race, but the truth is that we’re still pretty bad at it. We’re disquieted by and uncomfortable at the notion of having frank discussions; the reasons are legion, but almost all of us have one. So it’s remarkable when someone comes along and is able to tell a story that revolves around race without ever coming off as heavy-handed or preachy.

Mat Johnson’s “Loving Day” is just such a story, an equal-parts funny and poignant tale of one man’s struggle with his racial identity and the differences between who he believes himself to be and who society believes him to be, as well as the biggest mystery of all - who he actually is.

Warren Duffy has returned to his native Philadelphia a beaten man. He has come back to take charge of his father’s massive and dilapidated home in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. A comic-book artist, his creative dreams have been dashed. His attempt at entrepreneurship – a comic book store – has failed miserably, as has his marriage.

His struggles with his racial identity – his father was white, his mother black – have informed much of his life. But when he learns that he has a teenaged daughter that he’s never met, one who has no idea of her own mixed heritage, Warren once again has a reason to care.

That caring takes the two of them in an…interesting direction. Tal has dropped out of her high school and Warren wants her to reenroll – preferably somewhere where she can learn about her heretofore unknown African-American side. This desire leads them to the Mélange Center for Multiracial Life, a charter school run by mixed-race utopians hoping to carve out a niche in the space between black and white. It might also be a cult.

Warren finds love and Tal finds herself, but neither discovery proves to be an easy one. And as the pressures mount, Warren makes mistake after mistake as he tries to find a place where he truly belongs.

There’s a loose joy to Johnson’s writing that manages to both elevate the heart-wrenching moments and ground the humorous ones. It’s a rare gift; one he wields with aplomb. He’s a spellbinding storyteller, instantly investing us in the people and places of his narrative. The vein being mined is a rich one, and Johnson is anything but stingy with the spoils. Every moment, every interaction, every word – it all contributes to the creation of the complex and beautifully flawed people that populate the world that is being created.

“Loving Day” addresses the blurring of racial borders with equal parts frankness and levity, finding both humor and pathos while treating the subject seriously, but never too seriously. That light touch results in a book that captures the sense of ethnic confusion that permeates the culture – the notions of “too black” and “not black enough.” Fiction is at its best when it feels truthful, and honesty flows from every page of this book.

There’s no disputing that this is a challenging piece of fiction – challenging in the best sense of the word. It’s a book that brings forth thoughts that linger long after the final page has been turned. While it is never difficult to read, it occasionally says things that are difficult to hear. It draws power from that juxtaposition – power that boosts even further the already-significant impact of the questions being posed.

“Loving Day” is social satire at its finest, unafraid to tilt at windmills and speak truth to power. It is inspired and insightful and incendiary, often all at the same time; an unforgettable and evocative tale from a truly transcendent literary talent.
Profile Image for Deborah.
412 reviews35 followers
December 15, 2015
This is not an intentional play on the title, but I loved Loving Day. Despite being up against some stiff competition, including Cynthia Bond's Ruby, Howard Jacobson's J, and Ausma Zehanat Khan's The Unquiet Dead, Loving Day is my favorite read of 2015 thus far.

Mat Johnson's writing is spectacular, with a slew of "quotable quotes" (many of which I have posted in the Quotes section of Goodreads). Just consider these opening lines:
In the ghetto there is a mansion, and it is my father's house. It sits on seven acres, surrounded by growling row homes, frozen in an architectural class war. Its expansive lawn is utterly useless, wild like it smokes its own grass and dreams of being a jungle.
In a mere 47 words, Johnson introduces many of his themes: father-son relationships and their accompanying expectations; the role of material possessions; racial conflict (although the quote speaks of "class war," the word "ghetto" alerts the reader that the particular war at issue here is one of race); and, most importantly, what it means to belong to a community (including, with its allusion to John 14:2, one based on faith).

Poingu, a fellow member of the Goodreads Tournament of Books Group, has suggested that Loving Day may be a sign that "it's time to call high social satire written by African American men a 'movement' - in the last few months Loving Day, Welcome to Braggsville, and Delicious Foods have been among my most enjoyable reads." To that list I would add Dwayne Alexander Smith's Forty Acres. Regardless of whether it constitutes a movement, this publication of fine literary fiction exploring the meaning of race from the perspective of people of color is long overdue. One of the main purposes of literature, in my view, is to give readers some understanding of the lives of people who are not like themselves; as Richard Jewell has argued, "Their literature, oral or written, is them, and they are their literature." Johnson says in Loving Day, "I see Caucasians in the room, looking over our way, puzzled and annoyed by the segregation. They stand in a pack of their own race, but their own race is invisible to them." Johnson is absolutely correct; I don't identify myself in terms of my race, so it (and whatever privileges it may convey) is invisible to me.

And this is what I found terrifying about Loving Day. As those who follow my reviews know, I have been very interested recently in whether America will ever be able to move past the issue of race. Johnson has now made me aware that racial distinctions are drawn even within the black and mixed race communities, but his point extends beyond race: "People aren't social, they're tribal. Race doesn't exist, but tribes are fucking real." Are human beings genetically predisposed to divide themselves into "us" and "them," whether the dividing line is race, gender, class, religion, hair color, or nose length? If so, what does that mean for our future, both with regard to race relations in America and with respect to worldwide terrorism? I'm not sure I'm going to like the answer, but I do appreciate Johnson making me think about it.

I received a free copy of Loving Day through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
1,861 reviews
October 6, 2015
50% of this book was great and the other half not so great. The best half explored the topic of being biracial from many aspects. The main protagonist, Warren Duffy, is half Caucasian from his Irish father and black from his mother. One day a young teenager, Tal, confronts Warren that he is her father. He is. At sixteen, Warren impregnates a fourteen year old Jewish girl, Cindy Karp. Cindy is deceased and grandfather Irving Karp is handing Tal off to Warren. Tal has dropped out of school. Warren and Tal embark on a journey to find a school for Tal to complete her GED. They find the Melange Center and Tal begins to explore her blackness and black roots. There is excellent dialogue and themes explored around biracial and triracial (white, black, Indian) people. Skin tones, Oreos (full denial of black blood) and sunflowers (brown on the outside and yellow on the inside) are topics visited. I just finished reading "God Help The Child" and "Between The World and Me." This book dovetails directly into the themes explored in these two works.
Johnson brought historical facts into the work exploring mixed race. The Racial Isolates school project examined Brass Ankles, Redbones and Melungeons. The marriage of Richard Loving and Mildred Jetter, married in DC in 1958. The Racial Integrity Law of 1924 said blacks and whites couldn't marry. It went to the U.S. Supreme Court as Loving vs Virginia. The Melange Center celebrated the decriminalization of interracial marriage on Loving Day.
There was some value in the exploration of the Loudin Mansion which Warren inherits from his father, Craig. It is a large mansion in need of significant repair. The house is in a borderline neighborhood, Germantown, which is being redeveloped but is currently plagued with crackheads and crime. The house has white and black ghosts from its past. Warren wants to burn the house down and claim the insurance money. Yet he needs a home now that he is a father and has a family with Tal.
Where the book fell short for me was the focus on the Melange Center needing to find a new location as the original school was illegally squatting on park land. Generally, while I liked the principles and concepts being taught at the Melange Center, Johnson added a bunch of craziness that distracted from the value of the story which seemed to be a lot of unnecessary filler with a whole lot of silliness. To some extent, I also felt this about Warren being a comic book illustrator as it just didn't add anything to the plot.
Johnson had fifty percent great material to develop into a terrific story. Too bad he got lost in following the trail.
Profile Image for Cosima.
241 reviews1 follower
July 18, 2017
Mat Johnson's "Loving Day" tackles several issues: colorism, racism, ethnicity, identity and acceptance, family, responsibility, and (of course) love. Despite its chaos and controversy, this book is infused with tenderness and a unique brand of humor that showcases Johnson's awareness and razor sharp wit. All of this makes for a hectic yet entertaining read.

Warren Duffy has just come back to Philadelphia after the death of his father. A struggling comics artist with an ex-wife to reimburse for funding his failed comic book shop, Warren must flip the utter disaster of a house his dad left him, and fast. On top of that, the fact that he’s at odds with his physical appearance is exacerbated when he comes home: with a black mother and a white father, he feels black but is often rejected because of his European looks. You could say that Warren has a giant chip on his shoulder. So when he’s approached by a Jewish girl that he fathered as a teen and never met, he’s understandably caught off-guard, completely unprepared for his induction into fatherhood. Soon he and his rebellious daughter, Tal, get sucked into a cultish mixed-race community/learning center that will test them before it’s all over, forcing them to define for themselves who they are.

This book is populated by some colorful characters and even more colorful scenes. Johnson is unflinching in his social commentary- he doesn’t hold back on America’s color issues, even though the story is tempered by lighter moments. Really, it's hard me to pin this book down in a review. What I can say is that it's insanely hilarious and thought-provoking at the same time. The story may focus on black/white issues but it’s something I’d recommend to everyone. “Loving Day” is one of a kind; I’ve never read anything else like it.
Profile Image for Roy.
Author 5 books252 followers
September 19, 2015
Mat Johnson has a very funny (as in comical) way of looking at the world, perhaps because he grew up with a fair number of people looking at him funny (as in odd). Is he black, is he white? The box you decide to put a person into upon introduction, the label you instantly apply to their existence, shapes the dynamics of the relationship you will have with them. If you're not sure of which box to go with, which label to use, then what is there to guide your first impression? If you're not sure what someone else is, how do you go about being yourself around them? We live in an identity obsessed culture. What are you? Who am I? We are comforted when we can tell at a glance whether someone is a star bellied sneetch or a starless sneetch. But when the truth about someone cannot be discerned by a glance at them, then either they need to forcefully declare what they identity as being, or else we'll do it for them. Loving Day is filled with indelible characters; a line-up of humorous situations; an entertaining blend of reality and unreality; a considerable amount of wry, insightful prose; great compassion; and a handful of ghosts. It is about figuring out that regardless of how clearly our stars can be recognized (thanks for helping me out with this review, Dr. Seuss), it doesn't change the fact that we're all just people put here to find other people to love. Preferably people who will love us in return for whatever the hell we are.
Profile Image for Kasa Cotugno.
2,413 reviews493 followers
August 21, 2017
Mat Johnson's day job as a university professor of creative literature is evident on every page of this heartfelt, at times, hilarious account of Warren Duffy's return to his hometown of Philadelphia. Duffy's father has just died, he's gotten a divorce from his Welsh wife and lost his comic book shop in Cardiff, and things couldn't be looking blacker, except for his skin. You see, Warren's father was Irish, his mother, African American, but his complexion has remained light. Upon his return to his father's last project, the failed restoration of a crumbling mansion in the Germantown area of Philly surrounded by ghetto, Warren discovers he has a daughter who has grown up believing herself to be Jewish. (This last fact is not a spoiler since it is contained in the novel's promotional materials.) So lies the groundwork for Warren's coming to resolution with his identity, and much more about what it means to actually be bi-racial in today's America. It is very up to date with references to recent horrors in the news prompting awareness of treatment of black men by police officers, but does not demonize any one side. As do many of the characters created by the comic duo of Key and Peele, Duffy finds being biracial presents a unique set of problems. I loved this book, its flawed characters, its plot. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for SibylM.
335 reviews29 followers
July 4, 2015
What a great read! As usual, I'm not into plot summaries in my reviews, you don't need me for that. Loving Day has one of my favorite opening lines of all time: "In the ghetto there is a mansion, and it is my father's house." Just this sentence alone lets you know you are in the hands of a writer who can pack story, emotion, and humor into a small literary space. Dark humor well done is hard to find in a novel, especially a novel that is also thoughtful, tender, has strong characters, and a strong plot.
One minor thing -- there are some grammatical and usage errors in this book that need to be fixed! Things like mixing up "to" and "too." I'm not sure if this is a problem with editing, or maybe things got messed up when translating into Kindle format, but there were enough errors that it was distracting, at least to me. So I took off a half star for that and a half star because .
Profile Image for Brittany E..
276 reviews4 followers
July 19, 2015
Loving Day was such an amazing and unique read. It was different from anything else that I have ever read. It was engaging and informational. It shares an important message about understanding and accepting who you are. The book primarily centers around people of African and European descent but the message can pertain to anyone.

Mat Johnson was able to take an important issue and turn it into a creative plot with real characters that, at times, had me laughing out loud. It was witty and smart in all the best ways. I highly recommend that you add this to your summer reading list.

You can read the full review and more on my blog!
Profile Image for Maxine.
1,279 reviews49 followers
May 22, 2015

Loving Day – an annual celebration held on June 12, the anniversary of the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision Loving Vs Virginia which struck down all anti-miscegenation laws remaining in sixteen US states citing “There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the equal protection clause”.

Warren Duffy’s life has not been going well. He has just come out of a rancorous divorce and he’s behind on his alimony; he makes his living doing illustrations for comics with African American storylines which means he doesn’t make much money; and his father recently died and left him a dilapidated old mansion in the middle of one of the most crime-ridden areas in Philadelphia. He has never felt comfortable fitting in as a black man in America. His mother was African American and his father was Irish and he is very light-skinned, something that has always made him feel insecure because, although he has always identified as black:

“I am a racial optical illusion. I am as visually duplicitous as the illustration of the young beauty that’s also the illustration of the old hag…The people who see me as white always will, and will think it’s madness that anyone else could come to any other conclusion…The people who see me as black cannot imagine how a sane, intelligent person could be so blind not to understand this, despite my pale-skinned presence.”

And if things aren’t sucking enough, he is heckled by a woman at a comic book convention for denying the white side of his biracial heritage. She tells him he’s the worst sunflower she has ever seen. Warren doesn’t know what a sunflower is but he’s damn sure he’s being insulted – which kind of makes the fact that he finds her extremely attractive a bit, well, difficult. So when she stalks off after her harangue, he decides to go after her. As he searches for her in the crowd, he is approached by an old Jewish man and his sixteen-year-old granddaughter who claim that Warren is her father – maybe things are starting to look up in his otherwise sad life.

Author Matt Johnson is an expert at satire and at uncovering the contradictions and confusions inherent in our sense of self. He is also a master at creating characters who are flawed, complex and who grow as the story and their lives change - Duffy makes a very sympathetic narrator as he tries and seemingly fails to fit in comfortably anywhere despite all his efforts to be not only what others expect of him but what he wants for himself. Other characters are less complex but, given that Duffy is telling the tale, that makes sense – we see them as he sees them. But it is with his relationship with his teenage daughter that this novel truly shines at least for me. Despite all his trials and tribulations, Duffy never gives up in his attempts to win her over because once he meets her, she becomes the most important person in his life.

Loving Day is at once poignant and humorous as it takes a satirical look at what it means to be biracial in America today, what constitutes ‘family’, and the desire we all have to find our own identity and a place we belong. It will likely amuse you and frustrate you in almost equal parts. One thing for sure, though, it will make you think long after you have finished reading it.

Profile Image for Michelle.
851 reviews1 follower
May 19, 2016
A slog of novel with disagreeable characters and a confusing dollop of the paranormal inserted into what should have been an engrossing, thoughtful discussion of multi-racial identity. Sometimes I thought I didn't like it because it made me, as a white girl, uncomfortable, and occasionally that might be true. But other times I didn't like it because the characters were irritating, the narrator being particularly disagreeable and terrible to everyone, and the plot meandered and dragged and meandered some more. I did like the arc of the house's story, meaning, and placement, but that doesn't make up for how often I didn't want to listen to this story and had to push my way onward.

Recommend to
If you can handle characters you don't like, plodding plots, and some occasional gross ogling and objectifying of women, because you think we need to read and talk more about race in America, give it a go. Or read more Zadie Smith, whichever you like.
Profile Image for Aaron Gourlie.
Author 1 book85 followers
March 16, 2023
An interesting story on race and what it is like specifically to be mixed races. I would probably put 3&1/2 stars if I could. The flawed characters were a little too unlikable at times as well as some overly graphic content. But i am a sucker for a man stepping up and becoming a father even if he is an unlikely one.
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