10. August 2020 - 16:00 till 17:00
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Survival Math with Mitchell Jackson | Monday, 10. August 2020

In conversation with journalist Julie Scelfo, Jackson presents a microcosm of struggle and survival in contemporary urban America.

About this Event

This online program will be streamed live via Zoom. Registration closes one hour prior to the event start time.

Moderated by Julie Scelfo, past Lecture Series presenter and author of The Women Who Made New York, Discourse and Process conversations provide insight into each author’s book and their research and writing process.

In conversation with journalist Julie Scelfo, Jackson presents a microcosm of struggle and survival in contemporary urban America - an exploration of the forces that shape his life, his city, and the lives of so many black men like him.

With a poet’s gifted ear, a novelist’s sense of narrative, and a journalist’s unsentimental eye, Mitchell S. Jackson candidly explores his tumultuous youth in the other America. Survival Math takes its name from the calculations Mitchell and his family made to keep safe—to stay alive—in their community, a small black neighborhood in Portland, Oregon blighted by drugs, violence, poverty, and governmental neglect. Mitchell explores the Portland of his childhood, tracing the ways in which his family managed their lives in and around drugs, prostitution, gangs, and imprisonment as members of a tiny black population in one of the country’s whitest cities. He discusses *** work and serial killers, gangs and guns, near-death experiences, composite fathers, the concept of “hustle,” and the destructive power of drugs and addiction on family. As Jackson charts his own path from drug dealer to published novelist, he gives us a heartbreaking, fascinating, lovingly rendered view of the injustices and victories, large and small, that defined his youth.


Mitchell S. Jackson’s debut novel The Residue Years (Bloomsbury) received wide critical praise. Jackson is the winner of a Whiting Award. His novel also won The Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence and was a finalist for The Center for Fiction Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, the PEN / Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction, and the Hurston / Wright Legacy Award. His honors include fellowships from the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center, the Lannan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, PEN America, TED, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Center for Fiction. His writing has been featured as cover stories for Time Magazine and Esquire Magazine, as well as in The New Yorker, Harpers, The New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, The Washington Post Magazine, The Guardian and elsewhere.

Jackson is also a well-regarded speaker who has delivered lectures and key note addresses all over the world, including the annual TED Conference, the Ubud (Bali) Writers and Readers Festival, and the Sydney Writers’ Festival, as well as at esteemed institutions, among them Yale University, Brown University, Cornell University, and Columbia University. A formerly incarcerated person, Jackson is also a social justice advocate who, as part of his outreach, visits prisons and youth facilities in the United States and abroad.


Julie Scelfo is a journalist, author and justice advocate who helps people discover the forces that help shape human thinking. Previously, Scelfo was a staff writer for The New York Times, and a Correspondent at Newsweek where she covered breaking news. Scelfo is  the author of The Women Who Made New York, a collection of intersectional biographies that reveal how it was women — and not just men — who built one of the world’s greatest cities.

Scelfo earned a Bachelor of Arts, *** laude from Barnard College, Columbia University, and a Master’s degree in Media Ecology from New York University. She lives in New York City, is a frequent public speaker and has made numerous appearances on television, radio and podcasts.