A “deeply original” (Elif Batuman), “violently funny” (Myriam Gurba), “brilliant and unforgettable” (Deesha Philyaw) debut about a young lawyer finally confronting her dark pastTo 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.
Chantal V. Johnson is a tenant lawyer and writer. A graduate of Stanford Law School and a 2018 Center for Fiction Emerging Writers Fellow, she lives in New York.
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