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In this “deeply original” (Elif Batuman) and “violently funny” (Myriam Gurba) story, a young lawyer finally confronts her dark past so she can live in a more peaceful future.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.
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It was the new nurse’s fault. She brought a butcher knife onto the children’s ward to cut up watermelon for the kids as a treat. She set it down for a couple of seconds to hand Nicole a plate and before you knew it, Melissa was threatening the other girls with it. The new nurse wanted to prove herself, so instead of getting a more experienced de-escalator involved she scolded Melissa, demanding that she “give back the knife,” while holding out her hand to take it. It was basically an invitation. Melissa accepted, slashing the nurse’s open palm. As the nurse looked down in shock, Melissa ran to her room, where, after slamming the door shut, she proceeded to slice open both of the mattresses while screaming with rage at the pain of having been born.
Vivian was in the dayroom down the hall speaking to her new client, Anthony, when she heard the screams. It was just past eleven a.m. and, as usual, she hadn’t slept well the night before. She had a joke about it. “I haven’t slept well in twenty-five years.” The person she was speaking to would laugh in the moment. Later they’d wonder what had happened twenty-five years ago.
Anthony was a tall, lanky Black kid, no more than fifteen. The cops had brought him to the hospital after he’d flashed a couple of women in the park. It seemed he lived on the streets but didn’t want to talk about his family or give any identifying information other than his name. Vivian was giving him her spiel about his rights in the hospital. She was his state-appointed attorney, it was her job to try and get him out, and everything he told her was confidential. Anthony scanned the dayroom as she spoke and fixated on another male patient who was watching TV.
“You all right?” Vivian asked.
“That dude, man, he keeps looking at me, man. I think he might be gay or something.”
Vivian suggested that they move into the hallway. It didn’t work. Now Anthony alternated between intensely looking at Vivian, absentmindedly touching his crotch, and scanning the hall, eyeing every passing boy suspiciously. He was telling Vivian that he didn’t want to take any meds when the screams started. She recognized Melissa’s voice immediately. Anthony laughed.
“This place is crazy, man,” he said.
Vivian turned and jogged toward the noise, passed the empty nurses’ station, and arrived at a small crowd of nurses, psych techs, and mental health patients ranging in age from seven to fifteen gathered outside the closed door to Melissa’s room. The human survival instinct was no match for morbid curiosity.
Carl, the towering head psych tech, told Vivian what had happened and advised her to stand back as he moved into position outside the door. From here, Carl and some other techs would rush in, tackle the ninety-pound girl and inject her with haloperidol before putting her into four-point restraints in the seclusion room.
“Newbies always underestimate the risk of violence on the children’s ward,” Vivian said with a laugh.
Carl laughed back. He liked Vivian, he’d told her weeks before, because she didn’t walk around all scared like most of the other lawyers. That, and she resembled his favorite aunt. She prepared to use this to her advantage as she stepped up next to him and listened by the door. She raised her index finger, calling for patience and quiet. The breathing and rustling suggested Melissa was on the opposite end of the room, near the window.
Before Carl could object, Vivian opened the door a crack and slipped through, gently closing it while stooping reflexively to pick up a pillow that had been spared Melissa’s wrath. Vivian stood up quickly, holding it in front of her abdomen for protection.
“Melissa,” she said softly.
Melissa spun around with the knife in her hand, sweaty and crazed. She was five feet away.
“Carl,” Vivian said to the door while maintaining eye contact with Melissa. “I’m in here with Melissa. She’s not a danger to anyone and she’s going to do the right thing.”
Relief flashed in Melissa’s brown eyes. She was a small dark-skinned girl wearing a bone-straight jet-black weave with a middle part. Sharp cheekbones. She wore street clothes—black jeans and a white tank top that showed off her muscular arms. Beautiful and tough.
It was clear that Melissa’s mind was clicking. The consequences of her irrational act were sinking in but she tried not to break, twisting her face to look menacing. She took two steps toward Vivian with the knife and called her a “Legal Aid bitch.”
Vivian didn’t flinch. She looked at Melissa calmly, as if she were sitting by a lake in summer. Melissa took another step. Vivian continued her patient stare. Seconds later, Melissa’s aggression dissolved. Behind it, fear. The hand that held the knife was shaking now. Without breaking eye contact, Vivian walked over, reached out, and took the knife, bloody and matted with the cheap cotton insides of the mattresses. Melissa did not resist. Vivian turned her back to Melissa and walked out of the room sure that there would be no further violence. She handed the knife to Carl without changing her face.
Then, as she walked down the hall, through the locked set of double doors marked in bold with the words ELOPEMENT RISK, she lost the ability to detect individual sounds. Her body began to send out distress signals. With every step, sharp spasms traveled from the right side of her back all the way down her leg.
She had a sensation that she was being filmed. The camera recorded two selves: a self that was limping and wearing a face of cheerless efficiency, and an identical self, defensively crouched and shaking against the wall, watching the other struggle to walk. Whether the quaking entity was from the past or the future Vivian couldn’t say. She knew only that the entity was terrified, huddled up against the wall, looking up at her with her own face. The form remained there, a witnessing presence, until Vivian was safely in her office with the door closed. She realized she was shaking. Her nipples were erect. Removing her pointy-toed flats, she saw that her feet were pale and her toes had turned blue. It was as if she had been barefoot in the snow.
* * *
“I don’t fuck with carbs,” the man on the street said with a laugh, when a well-meaning white woman had expected him to devour a half-eaten bagel with frantic appreciation.
Vivian smiled. Whoever said beggars can’t be choosers has never experienced the glorious recalcitrance of the New York City homeless, she thought.
She wondered whether that was the kind of joke she could successfully tell on a date. The date would have to know the meaning of recalcitrance. She wouldn’t want to say obstinacy, and stubbornness didn’t sound right.
It was early September but still sticky in the city. She had just left the hospital for the weekend. Her headache indicated that she had only an hour before she would faint from not eating, so she walked toward CVS to buy something to eat on the way to Jane’s.
While walking, Vivian caught her reflection wherever she could. She was smaller now than she’d been in a year, but not as small as she was last spring, when her doctor, treating her for muscle spasms, had joked that her body mass index of nineteen was almost worrisome.
“Eighteen point five is an eating disorder, all right?” he’d said, laughing to establish rapport.
“Oh, don’t worry. I’m too addicted to control to be addicted to anything else,” she’d responded, laughing back, “including diet and exercise.” She’d rehearsed the rhythmically interesting one-liner before the appointment. Her doctor was visibly uncomfortable, as many people were when she spoke to them directly.
Now it was happening again: her breasts weren’t filling out her bra completely. When Vivian was alone at night, she lifted her tank top and looked at them, extending her bottom lip like a kid peering down at something, pleased with the growing gap between breast and bra. Her nipples seemed to be pointing forward, as they should be, for the first time in a long time.
Vivian walked past a beautiful thin woman, Persian-looking, she thought, and cringed at this microsecond of mental laziness that made her feel like a white person. The woman’s ethnicity was in fact indeterminate, and she had the same sandy brown complexion as Vivian. She wore heavy black eyeliner and a soft matte lipstick in mauve. No fat could be seen through her cream-colored bodycon dress and Vivian suspected shapewear. She was talking on the phone and held a black bag in the crook of her arm with her wrist limp. Whether a woman did this while looking annoyed, bored, or harried, it made Vivian smile. She appreciated it as a canonical gesture.
The woman scanned Vivian up and down, assessing her brown legs. She did not smile back. Her gaze was almost accusatory, as if, Vivian thought, I were a lesbian. As if, Vivian corrected herself, I were eroticizing her. As if, Vivian corrected herself again, she had caught me desiring her. Yes. That was the purest articulation of what had just occurred.
(Vivian grew up in a house where it was important not to say the wrong thing and she’d been editing her thoughts for precision ever since she was a child. Finding the right way to phrase something was as soothing to her then as a stuffed animal was to others, and in fact the closest thing she’d had to a transitional object was a copy of The Must Words, described as “a collection of 6,000 essential words to help you enrich your vocabulary.”)
After the woman in the bodycon dress passed, Vivian felt a chill and thought again of Paula, a psychologist she’d met last year at a conference. They’d been on a panel together (“On The Uses And Abuses of Psychiatry”) and Vivian returned to their encounter with embarrassing regularity.
Paula had delivered an intellectually unadventurous talk on rates of adverse childhood experiences in the acute care setting, while Vivian had electrified the conference room (if she said so herself) with her paper on “sanism”—an implicit bias against people with mental illnesses based on false assumptions (that they are dangerous; that their conditions are immutable; that they are incapable of self-governance). During the Q&A, all the questions were for Vivian, and she noticed Paula shifting in her seat, stealing glances at Vivian’s body as she spoke.
After the event, over drinks at a nearby bar, Paula kept commenting on Vivian’s appearance and that of every woman in the bar, doling out awards for smallness and symmetry. When Vivian finally objected, playfully referring to Paula as a human panopticon, Paula countered with her retrograde theory that judging other women was “biological.”
According to Paula, women were evolutionarily designed to calculate their relative value to secure a mate. “We all compare and compete with each other! It’s natural and harmless.”
It was an infuriating explanation. It made Vivian feel like a dumb animal, defenseless and prerational. And so Vivian responded with a lecture, arguing that whenever women evaluated each other’s appearance—whether “her ashy elbows,” or “her perfect bikini body”—they were committing moral crimes, participating in the disciplinary project of controlling women’s bodies. These comments, though seemingly harmless in themselves, were corrosive to womankind in the aggregate, as they contributed to women equating their social value with their bodies, leading them to confuse a smooth, toned, dimpleless exterior with inner perfection, purity, or worthiness of love. But this was a fallacy, ergo, by making these comments, whether positive or negative, one was committing the most unethical, unfeminist act possible: reducing women back to their bodies, increasing their pain, and making them stupid.
“And they do it to me every day!” Vivian had said. On the subway, a woman’s eyes would bounce around the packed car as if following the jerky flight pattern of a moth, until finally settling on Vivian’s body. In the entrance to her gynecologist’s office, an administrative assistant would inspect her between sips of her morning coffee, using Vivian’s body shape and clothing choices to figure out what kind of Black person she was while she struggled to close a cheap umbrella. When, in a comic mood, Vivian performed an impression that required exaggerated gestures, another woman’s gaze was there, dragging her back into self-consciousness. Regularly she caught them staring at the smudge of dirt on her white Keds or her intentionally unwaxed mustache or her emerging gray hairs, as if their judgment mattered at all, as if it were remotely interesting or correct.
“Competition among women,” Vivian concluded, with a haughty air, “is a dangerous waste of our time. We should opt out of it entirely.”
It was a masterful argument—very Julia Sugarbaker; very Norma Rae. But Paula was unmoved. In fact, she’d taken Vivian’s monologue as an opportunity to free her hair from the elaborate bun she’d worn for the panel, painstakingly searching out and placing a dozen bobby pins down on the table in front of them to reveal irritatingly long brown locks which instantly transformed her from a decidedly plain-looking person to a moderately alluring one, and she seemed to know this, running her fingers through the endless hair now almost mockingly.
“You’re talking about what women should do,” Paula said. “I’m talking about what women actually do. It’s just not clear to me that women can opt out, like you say. For example, you aren’t opting out. I noticed you looking at my body earlier, while I walked onto the stage.”
It was true. Vivian had done that. She’d studied Paula’s body and felt better about herself for being smaller, by about ten pounds, she guessed, with a more attractive silhouette. To have been caught in this surreptitious comparison was embarrassing.
Then, Paula had taken her by the shoulders. “I hate to break it to you, girl,” she said, “but you’re one of us.” And she laughed and went to the bar to get another drink, leaving Vivian standing there, unable to respond.
Now, as she reached the corner, Vivian turned around and scrutinized the woman in the bodycon dress like Paula had known she would. The order of events was always the same: first, the up-and-down eye flicker, assessing overall shape and sense of style. Next, a consideration of whether the woman’s breasts sat higher than her own (they did), and whether she had the workout-resistant lower-abdomen pouch that greets women at the threshold of midlife (not yet). The bulk of Vivian’s attention, however, was on the woman’s bottom half. Vivian had the broad, lumpy backside of a childbearer while this woman had a perfect one, like an upside-down heart, Vivian thought. She tuned back into the sensory world just in time to avoid stepping into a pothole and she put her hand on her rapidly beating heart and laughed.
Years of heavy traffic combined with ordinary wear and tear had cratered the streets of New York, and a decade ago the city had added bike lanes. A pedestrian had to be on alert for threats from every direction. Would a left-turning car hit her, or would it be a zippy delivery bike racing to fulfill an online order? Traveling through a city soundscape made up of horns of varying intensities and durations, engines, whistles, and voices, she made it to Fourteenth Street. She watched a couple walk in sync until they no longer walked in sync, feeling a vague unvocalizable pain as she headed into CVS.
* * *
There was no longer any pleasure in eating; it was merely something she did to survive. When shopping for food, as in other areas of life, it was important not to make a mistake. So she took her time, picking up food products and turning them over, scanning the nutrition facts. Gluten-free popcorn contained fifty calories for every two cups; one large rice cake: sixty calories. Did she want portion control? If so, there were almonds, crackers, and “cookie crisps” sold in individual one-hundred-calorie packs, or she could get a Cheerios cereal cup. How about something sweet with high water content? Grapes, maybe, or a banana. No, she remembered—too many carbs. She crouched wearily by a row of protein bars, irritated by the sugar count. When she stood up, no closer to being able to decide, she was dizzy and nauseated and her breathing was shallow.
Suddenly an affable-looking Black guy shelving cat food inserted himself into her life, saying she looked like a model. The only things more oppressive than the eyes of an insecure woman were the eyes of an undesired man. She smiled through malice, thinking she had an ugly face and would have to be at least ten pounds lighter for it to be even remotely true that she looked like a model.
“Ha. Yeah right.”
“You okay, though, sis?”
“I’m fine,” she snapped.
“I never seen anyone take thirty minutes to pick a snack, though,” he said, laughing lightheartedly.
Had it been thirty minutes?
Embarrassed, she quickly grabbed a bag of roasted reduced-salt cashews, a low-carb high-protein venison bar, a twenty-ounce bottle of lemonade-flavored Vitaminwater Zero, and an unsweetened iced green tea containing epigallocatechin gallate (an antioxidant associated with weight loss) and got in the line, which snaked back toward the photo center and was not moving.
There was a problem with one of the credit card machines that required managerial assistance. To her left, an obnoxious row of Thanksgiving décor: decorative plastic gourds, fake cornstalks, paper plates covered in turkeys and fall foliage. Her throat tightened as she remembered an unanswered text from her brother, so she tried to focus on the song playing distantly over the sound system: “If This Is It” by Huey Lewis and the News.
There had been other times in Vivian’s life when she had reluctantly walked into a drugstore to buy toilet paper after days of not leaving the house and wiping herself carefully with paper towels, days lost, days where it was as if her attention had been picked up by malevolent fingers and dropped somewhere she didn’t want it to be, days where she was unable to stay in the room she was in, unable to focus on the task at hand, either having dark thoughts—the darkest thoughts in the history of humankind—or replaying, in minute detail, certain past events that were sources of intense irritation, anger, sadness, or general pain, and then she found herself wandering through the aisles listening to a yacht rock song, its relentless vacuity spotlighting her own. There was something about shallow clichéd lyrics combined with a sweeping sonic landscape in the sterile setting of a CVS, Duane Reade, or Rite Aid that always moved her in a Don DeLillo way.
As Vivian listened, she empathized with the singer’s entreaty, vaguely recalling her own attempts to get a man to end a relationship honestly rather than slowly fade away or gaslight her into thinking her insecurities were unfounded.
Ambiguity, though central to aesthetic greatness, was horrifying in real life. When a man inflicted it upon you in a romantic context, it highlighted his cowardice and your abjection. They did it casually, like flinging a toddler into a body of water and walking away, insisting calmly that it will swim. Huey Lewis was right, man—if loss of interest is inevitable, just get it over with and leave me, already.
A couple of years ago, when she’d become newly single, Vivian had been excited about using her goal-oriented mind-set to find a super-hot creative soul mate. Dating would be strenuous, dopaminergic. It would give her an excuse to strive and to be appraised.
But she soon learned that dating as a Black woman in your thirties was like running a marathon through a swamp wearing steel-toed boots. It was the topic of a dozen think pieces: Black Women Are the Least Desirable. While her white peers complained about dating app message overflow, Vivian got a trickle of lazy openers (Hey, what’s up), unsolicited inductions into the monarchy (Hello my queen), and food-related adjectives describing her skin tone.
And the ones she actually went out with? The cinematographer ghosted her after a solid first date. The lit professor claimed to be separated, but when she asked to go back to his place, he admitted to still living with his wife. The painter told her, after a night of passionate sex, that there was “no spark.” Veering away from men in the arts, she dated a tax analyst, thinking his rationality would predispose him to see her as a great catch and to treat her well. He had a panic attack while he was inside her and began muttering about his ex-girlfriend, who had recently reappeared in his life and with whom, he said, he was more simpatico, “because she wants kids, you know,” unlike Vivian, who had cheekily announced her intention to remain child-free on their first date.
She inched forward in line and tried to ignore the paper turkey’s beady stare. Not even the fact that she had a date the next day with Matthew, a musician she had met online, could soothe her now. The sense of doom she felt, the sense that she would Never Be Loved Again, spread out to envelop the entire human condition as manifested by all of the customers and employees in the store. Vivian’s eyes lost focus and she swayed back and forth to the song, feeling a sort of staged emotion which, though exaggerated, was founded on a real bit of sadness. By the time the cashier finally rang up her purchase, she had brought tears to her own eyes again, with her maudlin thinking.
* * *
Back outside there was a brilliant sun and a cloudless sky. Vivian crossed her arms and waited at the intersection for the light to change. To her immediate right, a man straddled his parked motorcycle, breathing heavily into his phone. She took two steps back and reached into her tote bag, gripping her phone as if it were a weapon.
“You fuckin’ bitch!” he yelled into the phone but also beyond it, louder and angrier than an agitated client at the hospital. He revved his engine loudly then, the gray exhaust blowing in Vivian’s direction, and for a millisecond she believed the smoke to be the physical manifestation of the man’s rage, that it was spreading out, like her sadness had in the store, that she was going to be enveloped by it. When the light changed, she quickly jogged across the street.
On her way to the train, her attention shifted. Now she looked over her left shoulder every half a block. She used store windows also, to see who was behind her. It seemed that almost every man eyed her now, deciding on the purpose she would serve. The bolder ones said things.
On good days, these encounters could be shrugged off as the cost of living in the city. But most days were not good. It was unfair, what they were doing. They made you feel simultaneously alone and not by yourself.
Vivian eyeballed a tall white man striding toward her who gave off bad vibes. He had on a dirty gray tank top and gray fleece sweatpants—heavy and out of season. When Vivian looked at him she believed he said, “You have a nice body but you need to work on your face,” before walking quickly toward someone on the other side of the street. Eventually, Vivian’s eyes focused and saw that he had singled out an Asian tourist and was now following her, yelling incomprehensible things at her. Vivian gripped her phone and imagined the man spontaneously combusting. The tourist looked around for help. No one else reacted or even slowed down. After a minute the man stopped yelling and walked away, aiming his frustration at the ground. Vivian exhaled, released her phone, and put on her sunglasses.
Underground, Vivian kept the sunglasses on to avoid eye contact, to hide her strabismus, and so that no one could see her microexpressions. She was anxious as she watched a piece of aluminum foil get picked up and tossed by the arriving train. She entered the train harried, scanning the car instinctively for lovers from the recent past until, not seeing any, she opened her bag. She stood in front of the doors in the middle of the train car so that she could scan the space around her, assess the makeup of the car, and reconstitute herself.
Slowly, Vivian reached for her earbuds, unwinding and then untangling them, also slowly, while intermittently looking up to see if she was being watched, before finding the piece of music that matched her current state of sad pensiveness, Bach’s “E-Flat Minor Prelude” from The Well-Tempered Clavier, as performed by Friedrich Gulda.
It took a couple of stops for Vivian to notice the bank of empty seats in the middle of the subway car. She chose the seat closest to the railing on the left and regretted it immediately (for though it would allow her a quick exit it would also encourage hovering nearby) but she didn’t have the energy to move.
At the next stop, a man got on and stood directly in front of her and started to bang—violently and arrhythmically—on the handrail above her. It became impossible to concentrate on Bach, and she felt the need to be aware of her surroundings, so she muted her earbuds but kept them in to maintain the appearance of listening. Vivian so resented men in these moments, lacking in spatial empathy, never having had to learn to lessen themselves, like the male commuters who would hover over you while holding an open tumbler full of coffee on the one day you weren’t wearing black, having decided to “step out of your comfort zone” with a pale pink sheath dress from Club Monaco.
VULTURE, Most Anticipated Books of Spring
HARPER’S BAZAAR, Best Books of the Year
NYLON, Best Books of April
MS. MAGAZINE, Best Books of April
DEBUTIFUL, Best Books of April
OPRAH DAILY, Best Books of Spring
Longlisted for the CENTER FOR FICTION First Novel Prize
“Deeply original, socially important, psychologically revelatory, propulsively and idiosyncratically readable. POST-TRAUMATIC is a gem.”—Elif Batuman, author of THE IDIOT
- “Chantal V. Johnson has blessed us with a cool, stylish, and violently funny novel about survival. It made me smile, laugh, cringe, shiver, and think. Like life, Post-traumatic is richly triggering and highly recommended.”—Myriam Gurba, author of MEAN
- "Stunning and riotous, POST-TRAUMATIC took me right under and then revived me, like only the best fiction can do. Johnson's delicious, meticulous prose delivers such intimacy and hilarity on the page, I laughed and cried all the way through. This is a raw, brilliant, and unforgettable debut. I love everything about it!"—Deesha Philyaw, author of National Book Award Finalist THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES
- “Post-traumatic is swift, caustic, charismatic, beautiful, terrifying, and so incredibly funny. It learns and unlearns itself continually, propelled by a restless main character whose gaze withers the world, the reader, and more achingly, herself. Johnson composes such precise, pathologically consumable prose that I couldn't stop reading, even if it was the way I’d watch a scary movie: through my fingers.”—Tommy Pico, author of IRL and JUNK
- POST-TRAUMATIC's Vivian is one of the most fascinating characters I've read in contemporary fiction: self-aware and lost, cutting and wounded, resilient and vulnerable — all those misfit bits that add up to the whole of a real human being. And Chantal V. Johnson writes her with a startling intimacy that makes reading feel like an illicit thrill.”—Dawnie Walton, author of THE FINAL REVIVAL OF OPAL & NEV
- “Chantal V. Johnson is a brilliant documentarian of the unstable. She writes with a forensic and unsentimental sense of justice, in sentences that spark with life.” —Vanessa Veselka, author of THE GREAT OFFSHORE GROUNDS
- “Post-traumatic is astonishingly funny, intimately neurotic, and so honest and necessary that I can't stop thinking about it. From the first sentence, we are thrust into the hyper-awareness of a character whose boundless vigilance makes us feel like both observer and observed. Johnson's attention to detail is so salient that it's simultaneously shocking and familiar. This book is a mirror I couldn't put down.”—Jill Louise Busby, author of UNFOLLOW ME
- “With searing intelligence, wicked humor, and an utterly captivating heroine, this brilliant debut shows us what it means to live with, and beyond, trauma. I felt such kinship with Vivian that I sometimes felt like Johnson was reading my mind.”—Jessamine Chan, author of THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD MOTHERS
“This sharp psychological novel tracks the obsessive ruminations of an attorney at a New York City psychiatric hospital named Vivian, who is ‘the only upwardly mobile person’ in her Black Puerto Rican family… As Vivian’s behavior increasingly contradicts her own intellectual convictions, a series of minor disasters prompts her to reconsider her need for control.”
—THE NEW YOKRER
“The deep anxieties that permeate Post-traumatic are the other side of the class ascendency that many millennials of color navigate as we square our routinely chaotic lives with memories of go-go ’80s and ’90s years that instilled in us implausible fantasies of ‘the good life.’”
—VULTURE, Most Anticipated Books of Spring
- "A brutally funny and poignant debut…Dark humor is another coping mechanism for Vivian, which Johnson deploys with tremendous skill…Throughout, Vivian’s confrontational interactions feel achingly true to life. This is revelatory and powerful.”—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Starred Review
- "Johnson...pulls off a delicate balancing act: She offers up Vivian’s paranoia, her shattered perspective, without calling into question the legitimacy of her pain...Despite the heaviness of the material, Post-Traumatic is highly readable. Johnson’s writing is witty and maximalist, with detailed scene descriptions and hyperverbal, culturally tuned-in dialogue... In writing Vivian, Johnson contends that the stories that fit into a recognizable trauma map may not be peopled by ruined victims and mustache-twirling perps who wander through a perfect moral universe — in which consent presents itself with glimmering transparency and harm never transpires in the gray zone….it is ambiguity that gives Post-Traumatic its power."—Jamie Hood, VULTURE
- “Johnson’s debut is a captivatingly raw, funny and relatable take on the survivor narrative.”—Karla J. Strand, MS. Magazine
- “Finally, a trauma novel with a sense of humor and levity!”—NYLON
- “[A] sardonic, searching novel…Her singular musings—on dieting, dating, and self-medication—entertain and enlighten.”—OPRAH DAILY
- “[An] original and darkly hilarious debut.”—DEBUTIFUL
- “A captivatingly raw, funny and relatable take on the survivor narrative.”—MS. MAGAZINE
- “A seminal work…the Catcher in the Rye of our moment.”—BOOKRIOT podcast
- “I stayed up until 7 am reading this book and I feel as though the top of my head has been taken off, in a good way. Post-Traumatic is a wildly perceptive, sharp, often very funny novel about trauma and surviving.”—R. O. Kwon, author of THE INCENDIARIES
- “Post-Traumatic has opened up a space for error and ugliness that Black women are seldom afforded in real life, and the book beguiles the reader into loving her in spite of her mess.”—Marina Magloire, THE NATION
- "On a craft level, this novel does a lot, subverting expectations and packing a punch. But beyond that, Post-Traumatic says something important about the impact of trauma, our country’s mental health crisis, and the toxic stress faced by a Black Latinx woman in America."—Rachel León, Chicago Review of Books
- On Sale
- Apr 5, 2022
- Page Count
- 320 pages
- Little, Brown and Company