Night Hawks


Night Hawks

A masterful story collection—thirteen years in the making—from National Book Award winner Charles Johnson, showcasing the incredible range and resonant voice of this American treasure.

This new collection of stories from National Book Award winner Charles Johnson offers an eclectic, engaging range of narratives, tied together by Buddhist themes and displaying all the grace, heart, and insight for which he has long been known.

In “The Weave,” Ieesha and her boyfriend carry out a heist at the salon from which she has just been fired—coming away with thousands of dollars of merchandise in the form of hair extensions. “Night Hawks,” the titular story, draws on Johnson’s friendship with the late playwright August Wilson to construct a narrative about two writers who meet at night to talk. In “Kamadhatu,” a lonely Japanese abbot has his quiet world upended by a visit from a black American Buddhist whose presence pushes him toward the awakening he has long found elusive. “Occupying Arthur Whitfield,” about a cab driver who decides to rob the home of a wealthy passenger, reminds readers to be grateful for what they have. And “The Night Belongs to Phoenix Jones” combines the real-life story of a “superhero” in the city of Seattle with an invented narrative about an aging English professor who decides to join him.

Spanning genres from science fiction to realism, these stories convey messages of tolerance, hope, and gratitude. With precise, elegant, and moving language, Johnson creates memorable characters and real, human struggles that have the power to enlighten and change us as we read.
  • Scribner | 
  • 192 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501184383 | 
  • May 2018
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Night Hawks includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


In this new collection, his first in many years, master storyteller Charles Johnson interweaves Buddhist themes and ancient Greek philosophy with immediate, striking narratives about moments of transformation and realization. From “Prince of the Ascetics,” in which an ascetic with a difficult master suddenly understands the middle way; to “Occupying Arthur Whitfield,” about a robbery that triggers unexpected compassion; to “Welcome to Wedgwood,” following a disgruntled professor who develops a new appreciation for his neighbor, these stories hinge on the capacity of characters to grow and change—in an instant or a lifetime. Night Hawks is a polished, profound gem of a collection, as subtly thrilling with its range and control as it is ultimately inspiring with its message.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. In “The Weave,” Ieesha, seemingly regretting the robbery, both calls 911 and sets the stolen hair on fire. Why does she take this second step?

2. At the end of “Prince of the A see more

More Books from this Author

The Way of the Writer
Middle Passage
Being and Race
Dr. King's Refrigerator

About the Author

Charles Johnson
Lynette Huffman-Johnson

Charles Johnson

Charles Johnson is a novelist, essayist, literary scholar, philosopher, cartoonist, screenwriter, and professor emeritus at the University of Washington in Seattle. A MacArthur fellow, his fiction includes Night HawksDr. King’s RefrigeratorDreamerFaith and the Good Thing, and Middle Passage, for which he won the National Book Award. In 2002 he received the Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Seattle.