African American

Wesleyan University Press @ AWP2016 – Los Angeles

Join Us @ AWP 2016, in Los Angeles!

Booth #1213


Don’t miss these events:

A Lunch Time Reading at Ace Hotel

Thursday, 3/31: Noon–2PM 
Ace Hotel, 929 South Broadway, Los Angeles
1913 Press, Sidebrow & Wesleyan University Press present:

Rae Armantrout
Fred Moten
Ben Doller
Sandra Doller
Amaranth Borsuk
Kate Durbin
Lily Hoang
Mathias Svalina

Just Saying: A Tribute to Rae Armantrout

Thursday, 3/31: 3-4:15pm
Room 502 A, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level R255

Stephen Burt
Amy Catanzano
Catherine Wagner
Monica Youn
Rae Armantrout

Four author-critics approach Armantrout’s work from a variety of angles, including her association with Language poetry, her exploration of science through verse, her treatment of pop culture and current events, and her merging of everyday experience with epistemological questions about perceptions. Read more here.

Friday Afternoon Cocktail Celebration for BAX 2015

Friday, 4/1: 4-5pm, AWP Booth #1213
Purchase a copy of Best American Experimental Writing, 2015 for $10 (50% off cover price) & enjoy a free Moscow Mule!

Book Signings @ Booth #1213

Rae Armantrout (Itself)–Thursday, 3/31, 4:30PM

Robert Fernandez (Scarecrow)–Friday, 4/1: 10AM

Ben Doller (Fauxhawk) –Friday, 4/1, 12PM


Stop by check out our new books!


Treaty Shirts: October 2034—A Familiar Treatise on the White Earth Nation (Gerald Vizenor)

Reality by Other Means: The Best Short Fiction of James Morrow (James Morrow)


Common Sense (Ted Greenwald)

Age of Reasons: Uncollected Poems 1969–1982 (Ted Greenwald)

Azure: Poems and Selections from the “Livre” (Stéphane Mallarmé)

Fauxhawk (Ben Doller)

Scarecrow (Robert Fernandez)

The Book of Landings (Mark McMorris)

A Sulfur Anthology (edited by Clayton Eshleman)

Ralph Lemon coming to Wesleyan University 2/25/16

As part of the World of Arts in the Heart of Connecticut series hosted by the Wesleyan University Center for the Arts, Ralph Lemon will appear at Wesleyan’s Ring Family Performing Arts Hall on February 25, 2016. His presentation, Ceremonies Out of the Air, touches upon both his new and old work in relation to an imagined South.

As a choreographer, writer, director, and conceptualist, Ralph Lemon is a dynamic voice, canonizing what is African American literature and history through his in-depth research and presentation of traditionally African American culture through dance, art, and memoir. In his latest book, Come home Charley Patton, Lemon examines and imagines the South through memoir, documenting the Civil Rights era and contemporary southern culture through his journal entries. Sketches and photographs are included, capturing the haunting sites of lynchings, Civil Rights protests, and meetings between Lemon and the descendants of musicians and activists. A few images from the book, documenting Lemon’s travels, are included below:

one of the bedrooms in Mose Toliver's home

One of the bedrooms in Mose Toliver’s home. Mose Toliver was a folk artist whose art can be found in the Rosa Parks Museum.

a framed image of Elvi Presley in Mrs. Kent's house in Memphis, TN

A framed image of Elvis Presley in Mrs. Helen Kent’s house in Memphis, TN.

Helen Kent in her living room

Helen Kent, the daughter of Frank Stokes, an African American blues musician, in her living room.

in memory of the many protests and marches of Birmingham, AL, Lemon captures an image of a hose, a common weapon to deter peaceful protestors

In memory of the many protests and marches of Birmingham, AL, Lemon captures an image of a hose, a common weapon to deter peaceful protestors.

Consider shopping local this holiday season!

We reached out to our local independent booksellers to find out what fun events they have planned for Small Business Saturday, Cyber (or CIDER) Monday, and the rest of the holiday season. If you shop for the holidays, please consider ordering or purchasing gifts from local retailers. You might also consider giving a book from a small press or university press. Wesleyan has number of books that would make great gifts, some are included here.


Bank Square Books
53 W. Main St
Mystic, CT 06355
Day-long celebration with local authors: James R. Benn, L.M. Browning, Sarah MacLean, Ruth Crocker, Ann Haywood Leal, Susan Kietzman, David K. Leff, Adam Shaughnessy, and Robert Steele.

Breakwater Books
81 Whitfield St
Guilford, CT 06437
Book signing with Mary Sharnick, Orla’s Canvas, 12–2PM

Hickory Stick Bookshop
2 Green Hill Rd.
Washington, CT 06794
Book signing with Marilyn Singer, Tallulah’s Tap Shoes, 2PM

Mystic Seaport Museum Store
75 Greenmanville Ave
Mystic, CT 06355
Book signing with Roger C. Taylor, L. Francis Herreshoff: Yacht Designer,  3pm

*November 30th* CIDER MONDAY

Breakwater Books
81 Whitfield St
Guilford, CT 06437
Join us on “Cider Monday” (our version Cyber Monday) & enjoy warm cider and snacks as you do your holiday shopping. Leave your computer and shop in a local bookstore where real people can help you with your selections. Enjoy an old fashioned shopping experience! (View more events here.)

Hickory Stick Bookshop
2 Green Hill Rd.
Washington, CT 06794
Enjoy a cup of cider and a snack as you have an old-fashioned holiday shopping experience in a real bookstore with real people to help you. We promise our “servers” won’t crash, but instead will offer recommendations that will help you with your selections. We’ll even wrap your gifts!

Additional Events

Bank Square Books
53 W. Main St
Mystic, CT 06355
December 1 – Mystic Stroll, businesses in Mystic stay open late for holiday shoppers! That night, we will host cookbook author Ellen Stimson for a cookie contest and cookie swap. More info here.

Breakwater Books
81 Whitfield St
Guilford, CT 06437
December 3 – E-List’s annual Girls Night Out Guilford, 5PM. Meet at Whitfields, to start with a 1/2 price glass of wine! More info here.

Broad Street Books
45 Broad St
Middletown, CT 06457
December 19 – Scooby Doo books and read by Santa
Broad Street Books is also a one of the sponsors of Middletown’s Holiday on Main Street.

Burgundy Books
1285 Boston Post Rd
Westbrook, CT 06498
November 21 – Luncheon with Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, 12PM
December 15 – Book signing with Susannah Cahalan, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness,  12:30PM

Harbor Books
146 Main St
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
December 4 – Old Saybrook’s Winter Stroll, stop by at our table for a free novelty bookmark!

Hickory Stick Bookshop
2 Green Hill Rd.
Washington, CT 06794
December 5 – Donna Marie Merritt, We Walk Together, 2PM
December 6 – Jack Chaucer, Nikki Blue: Source of Trouble

Mystic Seaport Museum Store
75 Greenmanville Ave
Mystic, CT 06355
December 5 – Book signing with Carlo DeVito, Wreck of the Whale Ship Essex: The Complete Illustrated Edition, 1PM
December 6 – Book signing with Paul S. Krantz, Riding the Wild Ocean, 2pm

R.J. Julia Booksellers
768 Boston Post Rd
Madison, CT 06443
December 2 – Book signing with Ellen Stimpson, An Old Fashioned Christmas, 7PM
December 3 – Teens Talk Books Holiday Party, 6PM
December 6 – Santa Letter Writing Workshop, 12PM–1:30PM
December 18 – Voices In The Bookstore, local authors read their work, 6PM
December 20 – The Grinch Story Time, 10:30AM

Gift Ideas from Wesleyan University Press

 fauxhawk featured image ORouke_Breakfast featured image  Leff_Maple featured image Copy of Farrow - Log Books R-72-3
Eichenbaum _ Director R-72-3 Jones comps.indd  KlostyBookwOutline72DPI  Adobe Photoshop PDF

Honoring Veterans of Connecticut and Beyond

Connecticut Veterans


The Battle of Antietam, pictured here, claimed over 22,000 casualties in one day. Years later, a soldier remembered: “for the six months following everything I ate drank or smelled had an odor of dead men in it and the memory of the scene and the place and the four trees that stood in the field to mark the place of burial will never be effaced.” (Manuscript of William Relyea, pp. 54–55, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.) From Heroes for All Time


Nurse Harriet Ward Foote Hawley, who hailed from Connecticut wrote of her charge: “I can’t let them die—if they do a piece of my life dies too.” From Heroes for All Time.


Connie Nappier, Jr., Tuskegee Airman and native of Connecticut, c. 1944–1945. Courtesy of Connie Nappier and The Veterans Oral History Project at Central Connecticut State University (40-1, p308) From African American Connecticut Explored

Wesleyan poets who served in WWII and the Vietnam War


Left: The late Harvey Shapiro earned a Distinguished Flying Cross serving as a B-17 tail gunner during WWII.
Right: Yusef Komunyakaa earned a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, working as a specialist for the military paper Southern Cross. 

#tbt: Readings Across Time & Space with the Ancestors


On November 29th, 1781, somewhere between the coast of West Africa and the island of Jamaica, some 150 enslaved Africans were thrown into the Atlantic Ocean on orders of the captain of the ship Zong. The book length poem, Zong! by M. NourbeSe Philip, was written entirely from the words of the legal decision regarding this massacre. This legal document is the only extant public document related to the massacre. Participatory and ritual, Zong! is an interplay between noise and silence. It performs, even as it seemingly unperforms, ideas of history and memory.

On November 29th, 2013, those who lost their lives aboard Zong were remembered with readings in Toronto, Brazil, Tobago, Trinidad, Blomfontein, and in New York at Unnameable books. Participants were invited to the sacred a space where ancestral voices join with voices of the living. The exchange was facilitated through spoken word, music, video, movement and improvisation, creating a polyvocal, counterpointed soundscape. View a video of one of the events here.

You can catch M. NourbeSe Philip at Wesleyan’s Memorial Chapel this evening, where she will be joined Wesleyan’s own Gina Athena Ulysse for an evening of poetry-based performances.

Related books:

Making Freedom: The Extraordinary Life of Venture Smith

The Logbooks: Connecticut’s Slave Ships and Human Memory

Announcing “She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks” from NourbeSe Phillip

New edition


The groundbreaking seminal collection by the author of Zong!


Brilliant, lyrical, and passionate, this collection from the acclaimed poet M. NourbeSe Philip is an extended jazz riff running along the themes of language, racism, colonialism, and exile. In this groundbreaking collection, Philip defiantly challenges and resoundingly overthrows the silencing of black women through appropriation of language, offering no less than superb poetry resonant with beauty and strength. She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks was originally published in 1989 and won the Casa de Las Americas Prize. This new Wesleyan edition includes a foreword by Evie Shockley. An online reader’s companion is available at


NOURBESE PHILLIP is a poet, essayist, novelist, and playwright who was born in Tobago, in the twin island state of Trinidad and Tobago, and now lives in Toronto. She is the author of four books of poetry, including Zong!, a novel, and three collections of essays. EVIE SHOCKLEY is an associate professor of English at Rutgers University, and author of the new black, winner of the Black Caucus of American Library Association’s Literary Award for Poetry.


“Philip’s tragic transport—as a curate of the impure word, the degeneration and regeneration of grammar—bears the black history of romance. No sojourn in contemporary poetry is more necessary or more beautiful than hers.”

—Fred Moten, author of The Feel Trio

“Since the original publication of She Tries Her Tongue, the critical community has been catching up with NourbeSe Philip’s seismic poetic voice and her radical philological project—continued in Looking for Livingstone: An Odyssey of Silence and Zong! This collection should be required reading for all students of Caribbean art and literature.”

—Emily Greenwood, author of Afro-Greeks: Dialogues between Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Classics in the Twentieth Century

 She Tries Her Tongue richly touches upon the difficult intertwining of race, gender, sexuality, history, and language. No other work brings these concerns so centrally to readers.”

—Samantha Pinto, author of Difficult Diasporas: The Transnational Feminist Aesthetic of the Black Atlantic



She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks

            All Things are alter’d, nothing is destroyed

            Ovid, The Metamorphoses (tr. Dryden).


the me and mine of parents

the we and us of brother and sister

the tribe of belongings small and separate,

when gone. . .

on these exact places of exacted grief

i placed mint-fresh grief coins

sealed the eyes with certain and final;

in such an equation of loss tears became

a quantity of minus.

with the fate of a slingshot stone

loosed from the catapult pronged double with history

and time on a trajectory of hurl and fling

to a state active with without and unknown

i came upon a future biblical with anticipation



100 pp., 6 x 9” or 5-1/2 x 8-1/2”

Paper, $15.95



eBook, $12.99 Y


NourbeSe Philip & Gina Ulysse team up!


Atlantic Reasonings Between Caribbean Sisters
Performances by M. NourbeSe Philip and Gina Athena Ulysse
October 15th, 7:30PM in Wesleyan’s Memorial Chapel.

Two Wesleyan Press authors, M. NourbeSe Phlip and Gina Athena Ulysse are teaming up for an evening of powerhouse performances sponsored in large part by Wesleyan’s own Center for the Americas, with a additional support from our English Department’s Concentration in Creative Writing. Other funders include the Andrew W. Melon Fund for Lectures in Ethics; Center for the Arts; Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies; the English Department’s Concentration in Creative Writing; Office of Equity & Inclusion; and Romance Languages & Literatures.

Please, also join us on October 14th, 4:15 PM, in Russell House, for a conversation between M. NourbeSe Philip and Indira Karamcheti–who will discuss Caribbean diasporas, the arts, race and self-care, followed by an open Q&A with audience members.

About the artists:

Gina Athena Ulysse is a performance artist, anthropologist, and author of Why Haiti Needs New Narratives, Downtown Ladies, and Haiti, me & THE WORLD.

M. NourbeSe Philip is a poet, lawyer, and author of She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks and Zong!. Her essay collections include A Genealogy of Resistance and Showing Grit.

Respond to the Facebook invite here.

De Lavallade, Faison & Wilkinson reflect on Janet Collins & their careers


Panelists include Carmen de Lavallade, George Faison, and Raven Wilkinson.

Sunday, September 20th 2PM
Barnes & Noble, 150 East 86th Street (86th & Lexington Ave.), New York, NY

Moderated by author Yaël Tamar Lewin, to celebrate the paperback edition of Night’s Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins.
A panel of renowned artists will reflect on Collins and her career, and discuss their own experiences as African-American performers in a racially segregated United States. There will also be a brief reading from the book and a screening of historical film clips.

Carmen de Lavallade is an award-winning dancer, choreographer, and actress. She performed with the Lester Horton Dance Theater and Alvin Ailey Dance Company and has appeared on Broadway (House of Flowers) and off (Othello, Death of a Salesman), as well as in film (Carmen Jones, Odds Against Tomorrow). Janet Collins was her first cousin and a great inspiration to de Lavallade, who danced some of her roles at the Metropolitan Opera. De Lavallade was also wife and dance partner to the late Geoffrey Holder.

George Faison is a celebrated dancer, choreographer, and producer who was the first African American to win a Tony Award for Best Choreography—which he received for The Wiz in 1975. He has also worked with popular entertainers such as Ashford & Simpson, Patti LaBelle, Dionne Warwick, and Earth, Wind & Fire. In addition, Faison is the artistic director of the Faison Firehouse Theater, a performing arts and cultural center that seeks to preserve Harlem’s historic past.

Raven Wilkinson was the first African-American dancer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, which she joined in 1955, becoming a soloist in her second season. When performing in the American South, she wore white makeup to conceal her race. After her identity was revealed, she faced threats from the KKK. She left the company in 1961 and went on to work with the Dutch National Ballet and New York City Opera.



#tbt: Young Union “Soldiers”

Today’s Throwback Thursday images are from the book Heroes for all Time: Connecticut Civil War Soldiers Tell Their Stories. These photographs depict two rather young Union “soldiers”.


The name of boy on the left has been lost to history. He was most likely a former slave who sought shelter with Union soldiers. Many such boys and young men became servants to Union soldiers—cooking, washing clothes, cutting wood, and tending to gear. Some traveled North after the close of the war, to continue working as attendants in the homes of returning soldiers. On the right is Robert Morton, who worked as a servant for Union soldier Robert Potter during the war. As with many African American people who hired themselves to Union soldiers, little is known of his life.

 Adobe Photoshop PDF

Nationwide, and in Connecticut, Sesquicentennial Commemorations of the Civil War are Winding Down.
Wesleyan author Matthew Warshauer has played a large role in the Commemoration efforts here in Connecticut. He is co-chair ofthe Connecticut Civil War Commemoration Commission, author of Connecticut in the American Civil Warand editor of Inside Connecticut and the Civil War. The authors of Heroes for All Time will be at both of the Connecticut events listed below, answering questions about Connecticut soldiers and signing copies of their book—which if full of interesting stories such as those of the two boys photographed above.

August 29th & 30th
After four years of amazing events and an impressive range of new scholarship and understanding of Connecticut’s important role in the Civil War, the Civil War Commemoration is coming to a close during the last weekend of August, 2015. You can join the Connecticut Civil War Commemoration Commission at scenic Bauer Park (Madison, CT) for the final Commission sponsored encampment of the 150th anniversary commemoration. The event will feature hundreds of re-enactors and displays. Be there for the last great battle on Saturday and the official closing ceremonies on Sunday. You can find more information here.

September 12th
Join the Middlesex County Historical Society for a day of history, music, and remembrance in the back yard of the General Mansfield House. The featured speaker will be Edward Ball, acclaimed author of Slaves in the Family, winner of the National Book Award. Tom Callinan, Connecticut’s first State Troubadour, will be on hand to sing popular songs from the Civil War era, as well as original compositions. Re-enactors will portray civilians and soldiers from Company F of the 14th CVI. They will demonstrate camp life including drills, cooking over campfires, and other activities necessary to the operation of an army of the period. You can find more information here.

Night’s Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins

Janet Collins (1917–2003) was a renowned dancer, painter, and the first African-American soloist ballerina to appear on the stage of New York’s Metropolitan Opera. It took her many years of resolve, facing the blatant racism that existed in the dance community (as it did elsewhere in the United States), to achieve the status of prima ballerina at the Met. In fact, at age 15 she was offered a position with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, with the caveat that she would “paint her face white.” Collins declined. But she did not give up.

 Lewin-Night R-72-3rule

Night’s Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins, recipient of the Marfield Prize,
the National Award for Arts Writing, and now available in paperback.
The first two chapters are comprised of Collins’s unfinished autobiography.

 larger collage


The black dancing body was welcome on American and European stages of the mid-twentieth century, but usually only in forms of popular entertainment that perpetuated African-American stereotypes: the comic, the streetwise, and the exotic primitive. These stereotypical characters were found in minstrel shows and vaudeville, as well as on Broadway and in Hollywood movies. Pioneers like Edna Guy, Hemsley Winfield, and Katherine Dunham paved the way for African-American dancers in the arena of Modern dance, but the world of ballet remained closed, its movement vocabulary deemed too refined for black performers. In addition to the stereotypes of being too raw, too sensual, and too primal, blacks also had to contend with an irrational judgment of their physiques. White dance directors and choreographers deemed the black dancing physique as incompatible with ballet’s technical and aesthetic demands, assuming that they somehow lacked the grace and precision necessary to succeed in ballet.

Night’s Dancer tells the story of Janet Collins, who helped to pave the way for positive change in the dance world. She remains an inspiration today, due to her artistry, courage, and perseverance. Biographer Yaël Tamar Lewin, who is also a dancer, does not shy away from the darker corners of her life. Lewin discusses Collins’s battle with depression, the sterilization she underwent as a young woman, and the hard-hitting rejection she faced because of her skin color. Lewin does not merely focus on Collins’s long struggle to break the race barrier. Drawing on extensive research as well as interviews with Collins, her family, friends, and colleagues, Lewin chronicles her life as a well-rounded and accomplished artist, a true pioneer in her choreographic work. Collins fused styles, topics, and music in new ways. She also was a talented painter.

Wesleyan University Press is not alone in recognizing the talents and achievements of Janet Collins. She is also the subject of Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story, a new short animated film narrated by Chris Rock and produced by Karyn Parsons for Sweet Blackberry. Carmen de Lavallade, an accomplished dancer, choreographer, and Yale University professor, is working on a feature film about her talented cousin. De Lavallade is collaborating with actress/producer Roberta Haynes and writer Jenny Callicott on the film, Prima: The Janet Collins StoryTheir website explains: “So many events in today’s news remind us that it is increasingly important to remember the struggles of the civil rights movement.” And asks: “[W]hy is it that Janet Collins’ amazing accomplishment of becoming the first black prima ballerina of the Metropolitan Opera a story that remains untold?”

Collins’s story is still very relevant. In her memoir, Misty Copeland (now principal dancer at American Ballet Theater) noted that “[t]here were many people who seemed not to want to see black ballerinas, who thought that our very presence made ballet less authentic, less romantic, less true. The bitter truth is I felt that I wasn’t being fully accepted because I was black, that leaders of the company just didn’t see me starring in more classical roles, despite my elegant line and flow.” Collins was among a small, dedicated group of black dancers who helped pave a difficult road for talents such as Copeland.

Janet Collins has been widely recognized as one of the finest dancers in America. Her artistic and personal influences continue to shape the dance world today, not only due to her perseverance, but also due to her great talent and creativity as a dancer and artist.

Photo credits, all found in Night’s Dancer: 1 & 2: Collins in Spirituals. Photo @ Dennis Stock/Magnum Photos. Courtesy of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. 3: Painting of a young girl by Collins. Courtesy of the estate of Janet Collins. 4: Painting of a woman with magnolias by Collins. Courtesy of the estate of Janet Collins. 5: Collins with Hanya Holm, Don Redlick, and Elizabeth Harris, 1961. Photo by Bob McIntyre. Courtesy of Don Redlich. 6: Collins surrounded by her art. Betty Udesen/The Seattle Times. Featured image: Photo by Carl Van Vechten. Courtesy of the Van Vechten Trust and the Carl Van Vechten Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.