Californium: A Novel of Punk Rock, Growing Up, & Other Dangerous Things
R. Dean Johnson grew up in Southern California, where everyone still calls him Rob, Bobby, or Bob. Which he likes. He lives in Kentucky with his wife, the writer Julie Hensley, their two children, a dog, two cats, and two indestructible hermit crabs. An Associate Professor at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU), he directs and teaches in EKU’s low-residency MFA in creative writing program, Bluegrass Writers Studio. His essays and stories have appeared in Ascent, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Louisville Review, Natural Bridge, New Orleans Review, Ruminate, Santa Clara Review, Slice, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.
9:35-10:05am: Panel – Perfectly Pop-Cultured: Writer-Nerds
1:35-2:15pm: Signing in SKyPAC Lobby
9:30-10:20am: Panel One – Whatever Sprinkles Your Donut @ Chamber of Commerce
11:30-12:00pm: Signing in D93 Radio Station Parking Lot
It’s late summer 1982 when the Houghton family uproots from Paterson, New Jersey and moves to Yorba Linda, California—the self-anointed “Land of Gracious Living.” Fourteen year-old Reece is trying his best to believe his family has come to California for the opportunities it affords and not to outrun a shared family secret, but he’s beginning to realize that even his heroes have flaws, everybody lies, and starting a band may be his only chance at salvation.
With a bullhorn, a borrowed guitar, and his new best friends—Keith, a know-it-all who knows very little; and Treat, a mohawked kid obsessed with obscure albums—Reece starts a punk group of his own.
While Reece’s relationship with his parents suffers under the strain of new jobs, new friends, new crushes, and old secrets, his confidence soars. Even without a gig or a song they can play the same way twice, the buzz about the band is swirling, and it’s not until the night of the band’s first gig that Reece will fully understand how much of his new home is authentic, how much is artificial, and how some things, like the chemical element Californium, can be both at the same time.