Jonathan Odell is the pen name of Johnny Johnson
- Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League (2015)
- The Healing (2012)
- The View from Delphi (2005)
Born in Laurel, Mississippi, in 1951, writer Jonathan Odell’s first novel The View from Delphi received considerable acclaim. Odell grew up in Mississippi in the pre-Civil Rights era, and this fact deeply affects his writing. Jonathan Odell is actually the pen name of Johnny Johnson.
Odell has younger twin brothers named David and Doug Johnson. As a young man, Odell worked in one of the Sanderson Farms chicken processing plants until he began selling books door to door. He often talks about the fact that one of the books he sold in black neighborhoods in the 1960’s in Mississippi was The Ebony Pictorial History of Black America. Eventually he became one of the top ten college students selling books.
A 1975 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi in psychology, Odell currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and often collaborates on creative projects with his husband Jim Kuether. Before becoming a writer, he did consulting for the Conklin Company, which sold oil and lubricants as a sales trainer, became its corporate vice president of human resources by 1981; and in 1986, he formed his own training and development company called Jonathan Consulting Group. However, he realized at the age of forty five that he was tired of speaking and consulting, so in 1997, he decided to sell his company and try his hand at writing fiction. While living for two months in Costa Rica and then for a time in Savannah, Georgia, Odell read Southern writers like Faulkner, O’Connor, and McCullers. He also was able to spend three months in France. He had the money to do what he wanted by that time in his life. He began writing, and he wrote for three years six days a week. He also took a Loft class taught by Mary Garner, an award-winning novelist. She suggested Odell change the point of view of his first novel from that of a young boy to the third person. The result was the more complex characters of Hazel and Vida in The View from Delphi.
His first novel The View from Delphi is set in the fictional town of Delphi, Mississippi, and is the story of two women, Hazel Ishee, who is white, and Vida, a black woman who is about the same age as Hazel. Although the women come from different backgrounds, they have something in common. Both have lost a son–Hazel through an accident and Vida through her attempt to save her son from a white man who wanted to kill him. At first the two women dislike each other, but near the end of the story they become friends, and together they make their own impact on the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement.
Odell’s second novel, The Healing, is also set in the South and is the story of a plantation owner’s wife’s grief over her dead daughter. His third is a rewrite of The View from Delphi, now revised and re-edited and called Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League, published in 2015.
According to Odell’s web site, he is currently, with his husband, award-winning artist Jim Kuether, “completing an illustrated children’s book, Just Call Me A Dinosaur.” He is also presently “putting the finishing touches on a volume of personal essays tentatively titled: Growing Up a Gay Fundamentalist Southern Baptist in Mississippi, or, God What Were You Thinking?” He resides in Minnesota.
Interview on PBS with Jonathan Odell
Jonathan Odell interview with Mrs. Willie Turner, for his book The Healing
- Visit Jonathan Odell’s own home page for complete information. and many interviews with Odell.
- Hear interview on Minnesota Public Radio‘s Talking Volumes with Jonathan Odell.
- Jonathan Odell’s Youtube Channel
- Jonathan Odell’s Facebook Page
- Interview with Jonathan Odell about The Healing. AL.com (2012)