[Update] Essays on Pearl Cleage

full name / name of organization: 
Tikenya Foster-Singletary, Ph.D. and Aisha Francis-Samuels, Ph.D.
contact email: 

Call for Papers
Book Title: In Search of Free Womanhood: The Critical Response to Pearl Cleage
Article Deadline: April 30, 2011
Publisher: McFarland Press, North Carolina
Editors: Tikeyna Foster-Singletary, Ph.D. and Aisha Francis-Samuels, Ph.D.

This first ever critical collection focusing on the cultural contributions of Pearl Cleage will address the full range of literary, essayistic, theatrical, and political texts authored by this prolific feminist writer.

After decades of producing and promoting her work and that of many other black women artists, Cleage is now enjoying a heralded heyday of public attention, that began in the late 1990s, thanks to the selection of her first novel, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, as one of the early Oprah's Book Club picks.

Like many contemporary African American women writers including Thulani
Davis, Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bambara, Sylvia Wynter, Ntozake Shange, and Gayle Jones, her work has been absorbed into the teaching canons of
"African-American Literature," "Multicultural US Authors," or "Writing
And "Gender in the US," "Ethnic Women Writers" and to a lesser extent "Southern Women Writers" and "Black Studies."

Certainly, there is a dearth of critical considerations of many of black women writers. However, given her popularity and acclaim, Cleage in particular has not received the critical attention required to unpack the importance of her unique subject position as both a serious regional writer who centers herself in black womanhood, and one who has garnered mass appeal and maintained a cross-over audience.

We have witnessed the trajectory of her immense popularity as a New York Times best-selling author, with a multi-book contract from Random House and yet have not seen the complimentary development of critical essays that would more fully place Cleage's literary accomplishments into proper contemporary and historical context. The Spring/Summer 2009 special issue of Obsidian, which includes four essays on Cleage (including two by these editors), is an exception.

This special edited volume will extend this work to create a body of critical materials that can deepen the appreciation for Pearl Cleage's extraordinary literary accomplishments. There continues to be a need for careful, critical reconsideration of both how Cleage's work stands alone, and how it can be addressed as being in dialogue with the cultural production of others.

We invite scholars, artists, writers, and activists to submit papers for consideration in this edited volume. We welcome contributions on the full range of Cleage's oeuvre including: essays, poems, journalism, plays, novels and public speeches.

Topics may include but are not limited to:
• Interpretations of the concept of Free Womanhood
• The arc of the West End novels as a series
• Black women and the HIV/AIDS epidemic
• Cleage, regionalism, and Georgia (including Cleage's contributions A n Atlanta journalist, collaborations with Live at the Zebra Lounge! And the Alliance Theater, and her special relationship with Spelman College)
• Socio-political influence of the Civil Rights Era Feminism and her work
• Cleage's Poetry as a political and historical tool
• Pearl Cleage as pop culture/Cleage and the Oprah Effect (from Oprah's Book Club to We Speak Your Names and the Legend's Ball)
• Cleage and the activist impulse (HIV/AIDS; the modern day sex slave trade; "down low" brothers; domestic violence; gentrification)
• Cleage as intergenerational bridge-builder, mentor, and role model
• Literature as a conduit of untold history (particularly that of black women)
• Cleage as the nexus of theory and praxis
• Cleage in conversation with a new generation of black women writers (Tayari Jones, Suzan-Lori Parks, Lynn Nottage and others)

Completed articles must be received by April 30, 2011.

Submissions should include:
1) a mini-bio (5-10 lines)
2) author's C.V. or resume
3) a 10-15 line summary or abstract.

Only electronic submissions will be accepted. Please send all materials in Word only to aishafrancis@yahoo.com and Tfosters@spelman.edu with the subject line "Pearl Cleage Project." As soon as possible, please inform the editors of your intention to submit. Essays should conform to MLA style and not exceed 7,500 words, including endnotes and fully documented references.