African American

#tbt: “Democracy” by prisoner Stephen Todd Booker, for his mother

Today’s Throwback Thursday poem is “Democracy,” from the book Tug, which was written by Stephen Todd Booker, a prisoner on Florida’s death row.





A dandelion seed of a woman,
She, the daughter hated by her own
Mother and sisters for having two sons—
Because perhaps too she wasn’t so alone
As to agree that black men were evil,
Each an agent of Satan, the devil;
Nor could she revel in the slaughter
Of her brothers, and became outspoken
In refusing to speak ill of anyone.
For that she was persona non grata,
And even mentioning her name was shunned.
It probably helped to kill my Mother,
Never being let back into the warmth
Of what should’ve been a familial sun.

Many another dandelion seed,
While buffeted by the four winds’ reprise,
Will invariably still crave the love
Of her own blood-kin, and suffer the need
To be needed by them—so what if lies.
And that is the way she gets dealt the card
Filling her cupboard with nothing but lard,
As her siblings maintain their faith in fate,
Their girths increasing along with their hate—
Prosperity telling them they have guts,
They telling themselves nigguhmen need nutts.
Across town, Sis will live by candlelight,
And chicken-delight, or take-out chinese.
She will teach her sons to pray on their knees.

Sometimes allmotherfuckinnight she prayed;
Or, she’d writhe in pain, unable to sleep,
Fighting a migraine she had had for days.
In the morning, she’d be a quantum leap
Ahead of her time, and again her long,
Go-getter legs would have her up, swinging—
She, the very embodiment of strong.
Once dead, you would have sworn by the keening
Of her sisters and Mother she was loved.
Once cremating her, that mission was scrubbed.
In the posthaste time, both sisters and Mother
Were squabbling over her meager estate.
One son claimed it his law; the other
Quietly watched them dicker and debate.


You can read more about Booker’s work and his troubled life in the New York Times.

The first book on hip-hop sampling as a musical process—now with a new foreword and afterword

We are pleased to announce new edition of Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop, by Joseph G. Schloss with a new foreword by Jeff Chang.


Based on ten years of research among hip-hop producers, Making Beats was the first work of scholarship to explore the goals, methods, and values of a surprisingly insular community. Focusing on a variety of subjects—from hip-hop artists’ pedagogical methods to the Afrodiasporic roots of the sampling process to the social significance of “digging” for rare records—Joseph G. Schloss examines the way hip-hop artists have managed to create a form of expression that reflects their creative aspirations, moral beliefs, political values, and cultural realities. Making Beats won the International Association for the Study of Popular Music’s (IASPM) Book Award 2005, and is now looked upon as one of the foundational works of hip-hop scholarship. This second edition of the book includes a new foreword by Jeff Chang and a new afterword by the author.

For more details, click here.

Also available as an ebook—check with your favorite ebook retailer.

#UPWeek: AAUP’s Third Annual Blog Tour


It is University Press Week…a time to celebrate all the wonderful work published by scholarly presses! In the spirit of partnership that pervades the university press community, thirty-two presses will unite for the AAUP’s third annual blog tour. This tour will highlight the value of collaboration among the scholarly community. Individual presses will blog on a different theme each day. Today’s theme is “Collaboration.” The following presses are participating. Click on the available links to learn about some of the collaborative efforts initiated by our colleagues at other presses and institutions.

University of California Press

University of Chicago Press

University Press of Colorado

Duke University Press

University of Georgia Press

Project MUSE/Johns Hopkins University Press

McGill-Queen’s University Press

Texas A&M University Press

University of Virginia Press

Yale University Press

Tomorrow’s theme is “Your University Press in Pictures.” Wesleyan University Press is participating on Thursday, November 13th, as part of “Throwback Thursday.” Read more about AAUP, University Presses, and University Press Week here.

Holiday Gift Ideas from Wesleyan UP

Something for everyone on your list!!!

Order from using discount code W301 to receive a 30% discount.

For History Readers

Vizenor - Blue Ravens R-72-3 Blue Ravens
by Gerald Vizenor
$27.95 Hardcover

From one of today’s most important Native American writers, this “emotionally wrought and finely crafted” (ForeWord) novel follows two Anishinaabe brothers from the battlefields of World War I, to their home on the White Earth Reservation, to the streets of post-war Paris. The book is based on his great uncle’s stories, as well as extensive research.

Campbell_Tempest-Tossed.indd Tempest-Tossed:
The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker
by Susan Campbell
$28.95 Hardcover

The youngest child of one of America’s most famous families, a mover and shaker with a wild streak, Isabella Beecher Hooker is remembered in this engaging, breezy biography. Pulitzer-winning author Susan Campbell combines the research skills of a “born historian” (Connecticut Explored) with a breezy, accessible style.

Williams - Prudence R-72-3 Prudence Crandall’s Legacy:
The Fight for Equality in the 1830s, Dred Scott, and Brown v. Board of Education
by Donald E. Williams, Jr.
$35.00 Hardcover

In 1833, despite public backlash, Prudence Crandall admitted a black girl to her private school, resulting in the first integrated classroom in the country. Former CT state senator Donald E. Williams Jr. details Crandall’s life and work, and her unique role in the fight for civil rights, including her battles in the court system and the legacy of these battles, which include Brown v. Board of Education, the civil rights movement, and the problems and progress we see today.

Farrow - Log Books R-72-3 The Logbooks:
Connecticut’s Slave Ships and Human Memory
by Anne Farrow
$27.95 Hardcover

Anne Farrow, co-author of the bestselling Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery, takes readers on a harrowing journey onto the slave ship of a Connecticut merchant via the journal of that merchant’s son, bearing witness to our most shameful forgotten history. 

For Film & Theater Buffs

Eichenbaum _ Director R-72-3 The Director Within:
Storytellers of Stage and Screen
by Rose Eichenbaum
$30.00 Hardcover

Thirty-five masterminds of film, television, and theater—the directors of such productions as The Lion King, Chicago, and Rain Man–open up to Rose Eichenbaum about the entertainment industry, the role of the director, and how their work impacts our culture and lives.

For Poetry Readers

Shapiro - Momentary-croppedR-72-2x3 A Momentary Glory:
Last Poems
by Harvey Shapiro
$24.95 Hardcover

Acclaimed poet Harvey Shapiro “plays for keeps” (Hugh Seidman) in this posthumous collection. With his signature brilliance he reflects on war and eroticism, illness and aging, love and death, all in search of a worldly wisdom and grace that the poet calls “a momentary glory.”

Coultas.indd The Tatters
by Brenda Coultas
$22.95 Hardcover

Brenda Coultas turns her keen eye to everyday objects—a pigeon feather, a discarded piece of jewelry—to make sense of the landfill we humans have made of our world. “These poems,” wrote The Kenyon Review, “cataloguing and owning and turning from and grappling with our vast trash, are trouble in the most useful sense of the word.”

. In Defense of Nothing:
Selected Poems, 1987-2011
by Peter Gizzi
$26.95 Hardcover

Bookslut calls Peter Gizzi “a major force in the ever-expanding vastness of the poetry world.” In this landmark collection, representing over twenty years of work, Gizzi cements that reputation, enlisting the very American vernacular in a magical and complex music all his own.

vizenor_crows_R-72-3 Favor of Crows:
New and Collected Haiku
by Gerald Vizenor
$24.95 Hardcover

Gerald Vizenor unites the imagistic poise of haiku with the early dream songs of the Anishinaabe people in this stunning new collection, in which ordinary moments “come to shimmering life on the page” (David G. Lanoue, president of the Haiku Society of America).

 For Music Lovers

 KlostyBookwOutline72DPI John Cage Was
by James Klosty
$55.00 Hardcover

A lavish 12 x11″ art book with a textured hardcover, velum wrap, and over 170 stunning duotone photographs of the great composer at work and at play, combined with eclectic remembrances of Cage from figures like John Ashbery, Yoko Ono, and Stephen Sondheim. This book a memorial to treasure.

 Lucier - Music 109 R-72-3 Music 109:
Notes on Experimental Music
by Alvin Lucier
$19.95 Paperback

Composer and performer Alvin Lucier brings clarity to the world of experimental music as he takes the reader through more than a hundred groundbreaking musical works, including those of Robert Ashley, John Cage, Charles Ives, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, Christian Wolff, and La Monte Young. No previous musical knowledge is required, only a love of music.

 Jarrett - Producing R-72-3 Producing Country:
The Inside Story of the Great Recordings
by Michael Jarrett
$27.95 Paperback

In what Music Tomes calls “one of the best oral histories of country music to come around for quite some time,” Michael Jarrett interviews the producers behind the most iconic country recordings of Elvis, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and more—revealing how producers have shaped our music and our tastes over the decades.

 . Making Beats:
The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop
by Joseph G. Schloss
$24.95 Paperback

Schloss examines the way hip-hop artists have managed to create a form of expression that reflects their creative aspirations, moral beliefs, political values, and cultural realities. This second edition of the book includes a new foreword by Jeff Chang and a new afterword by the author.

 Walser - Running 2-R-72-3 Running with the Devil:
Power, Gender, and Madness
in Heavy Metal
by Robert Walser
$22.95 Paperback

Dismissed by critics and academics, condemned by parents and politicians, and fervently embraced by legions of fans, heavy metal music continues to attract and embody cultural and societal conflicts. Walser explores how and why heavy metal works, both musically and socially, and investigates the genre’s formations of identity, community, gender, and power. This edition includes a new foreword by Harris M. Berger and a new afterword by the author.

Gerald Vizenor’s New England Tour, October 7-23


Gerald Vizenor is Professor Emeritus of American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.  He is a citizen of the White Earth Nation, and has published more than thirty books, including Native Liberty: Natural Reason and Cultural Survivance, Survivance: Narratives of Native Presence, Native Storiers, Father Meme, Fugitive Poses: Native American Indian Scenes of Absence and Presence, Hiroshima Bugi: Atomu 57, Shrouds of White Earth, and The White Earth Nation: Ratification of a Native Democratic Constitution. His most recent publications are Blue Ravens, a historical novel about Native American Indians who served in the First World War in France, and Favor of Crows: New and Collected Haiku. Vizenor received an American Book Award for Griever: An American Monkey King in China, and for Chair of Tears, the Western Literature Association Distinguished Achievement Award, and the Lifetime Literary Achievement Award from the Native Writer’s Circle of the Americas. Vizenor is a veteran of the United States Army. He served in Japan during the era of reconstruction, following WWII.


October 7, Tuesday, 4:30 PM—Wesleyan University
Center for East Asian Studies, Mary Houghton Freeman Room
343 Washington Terrace, Middletown, CT
EXPEDITIONS IN FRANCE: Native American Indians in the First World War  

October 10, Friday, 12 Noon—Yale University
Native  American Cultural Center
26 High St., New Haven, CT
Reading, and discussion of Blue Ravens

October 14 , Tuesday, 12 Noon—Bridgewater State University
Heritage Room in the Maxwell Library
131 Summer St., Bridgewater, MA
EXPEDITIONS IN FRANCE: Native American Indians in the First World War  

October 15, Wednesday, 6:30 PM—Brown University
Metcalf Auditorium
190-194 Thayer St., Providence, RI
EMPIRE TREASONS: Native American Indians in the First World War    

October 16, Thursday, 4:15PM—Harvard University
Radcliffe, Sheerr Room, Fay House
10 Garden St., Cambridge, MA
Reading, and discussion of Favor of Crows: New and Collected Haiku

October 18, Saturday, 1:30-3PM—Mashantucket Pequot Museum
110 Pequot Trail, Mashantucket, CT
Reading, and discussion of Blue Ravens and Favor of Crows.

October 21, Tuesday, 4:30PM—Dartmouth College
Rockefeller Center 1
2 Webster Ave., Hanover, NH
White Earth to Picardy: Native Americans & the First World War in France 

October 23, Thursday, 4:30PM—Amherst College 
Paino Lecture Hall, Beneski Earth Sciences & Natural History Building
81 Dickinson St., Amherst, MA
EXPEDITIONS IN FRANCE: Native American Indians in the First World War  


Autumn fun in Connecticut–agricultural fairs and more!


With Fall quickly approaching, we look forward to the many agricultural fairs happening across Connecticut. Attending a fair is the perfect way to enjoy Connecticut’s beautiful Fall weather, and colors, with your family, friends, or that special someone!

Wesleyan University Press is dedicated to publishing books to support Connecticut history and culture. Our Connecticut-related titles include some great Autumn reads: Becoming Tom Thumb by Eric D. Lehman, Connecticut’s Fife and Drum Tradition by James Clark, The Old Leather Man by Dan W. DeLuca, Hidden in Plain Sight by David K. Leff, African American Connecticut Explored edited by Elizabeth J. Normen, and Barns of Connecticut by Markham Starr, among other books.

Here is a schedule of Fall 2014 agricultural fairs and festivals in Connecticut:

Hebron Harvest Fair 2014 
347 Gilead Street
Hebron, CT
September 4-7, 2014
Hours: Thursday, 4-10pm; Friday, noon-11pm.; Saturday, 9am-11pm; Sunday, 9am-8pm. Admission: $12-13; parking, $5.

North Haven Fair 2014
Washington Avenue (Route 5)
North Haven, CT
September 4-7, 2014
Hours: Thursday, 5-10pm; Friday, 3-11pm; Saturday, 10am-11pm; Sunday, 10am-7pm Admission: $10; senior on Sunday only, $5; children under age 12 admitted free when accompanied by an adult.

Wapping Fair 2014
Evergreen Walk, 100 Cedar Avenue
South Windsor, CT
September 4-7, 2014
Admission: Adults, $6; seniors over age 64, $3; children 57 inches tall and taller, $6. Hours: Thursday 6-10; Friday 6-11pm; Saturday 10am-11pm; Sunday 10am-6pm. Parking is free.

Bethlehem Fair 2014 
284 Main Street
North Bethlehem, CT
Phone: 203-266-5350
September 5-7, 2014
Admission: General, $9; seniors, $7, Saturday and Sunday only; children under age 12, free with an adult. Hours: Friday, 5-10pm; Saturday, 8am-9:30pm; Sunday, 8am-5:30pm

East Haven Fall Festival on the Green 2014 
Town Green, Main and River streets
East Haven , CT
September 5-7, 2014
Hours: Friday, 6-11 pm; Saturday, noon to 11 pm; Sunday, noon-6 pm with a car show at 9am.

Ledyard Fair 2014 
Route 117
Ledyard, CT
Phone: 860-464-912
September 5-7 2014
Hours: Friday, 6-11pm; Saturday, 9am-11pm; Sunday, 11am-6pm. Admission: Adults, $8; seniors and youth age 13-18, $5; 3-day pass, $13; children under age 11, free. Parking: Free at junior and senior high school with shuttle bus to fair. Pets: Service animals only.

Norwalk Oyster Festival 2014 
Veteran’s Memorial Park, 42 Seaview Avenue
Norwalk, CT
Phone: 203-838-9444
September 5-7, 2014
Hours: Friday, 6-11pm; Saturday, 11am-11pm; Sunday, 11am-8pm. Admission: Friday $10, Saturday/Sunday $12. Seniors $10, Children ages 5-12 $5, US Military Personnel on Active Duty: Free with ID.

Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival 2014
Fort Trumbull and other parts of the New London waterfront
New London, CT
September 11-13, 2014

Four Town Fair 2014 
Egypt Road and Billings Road
Tolland, CT
Phone: 860-749-6527
September 11-14, 2014
Hours: Thursday/Friday 4-11pm, Saturday 8am-11pm, Sunday 8am-7:30pm. Admission: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, $10; Thursday, $6; children age 12 years and younger, free; seniors all day Thursday and Friday, $5.

Newtown Arts Festival 2014 
Fairfield Hills, Trades Lane
Newtown, CT
Phone: 203-417-0862
September 13-14, 2014
Hours: 10am-6pm. Admission: $5. Children 12 & under FREE.

Guilford Agricultural Fair 2014
Guilford Fairgrounds, Lovers Lane
Guilford, CT
September 19-21, 2014
Hours: Friday, 1-11pm; Saturday, 9am-11pm; Sunday 9am-7pm. Admission: Adults, $10; seniors, $8; children age 6-11, $5; 3-day pass, $25.

Milford Irish Festival 2014
Fowler Field Rotary Pavilion behind the Milford Public Library, 57 New Haven Avenue
Milford, CT
Phone: 203-874-7275
September 19-20, 2014
Hours: Friday 6-11pm, Saturday 11am-11pm. Admission: Friday $5, Saturday $12.

Harvest Festival at Haight-Brown Vineyard 2014 
Haight-Brown Vineyard, 29 Chestnut Hill Road
Litchfield, CT
Phone: 860-307-5426
September 20-21, 2014
Hours: 11am – 6pm, both days. Admission: $25; kids under age 21, $10.

Harvest Festival at Stonington Vineyards 2014 
Stonington Vineyards, 523 Taugwonk Road
Stonington, CT
Phone: 860-535-1222
September 20-21, 2014
Hours: 12-6pm. Admission: Advance tickets $20, Day-of tickets $25.

Orange Country Fair 2014
525 Orange Center Road
Orange, CT
September 20 & 21, 2014
Hours: Saturday, 8am-7pm; Sunday: 8am-6pm. Admission: Adults, $7; seniors, $5; free parking and shuttle.

Durham Fair 2014 
Main Street and Fowler Avenue
Durham, CT
September 25 – 28, 2014
Hours: Thursday, 4-10 pm; Friday and Saturday, 9am-10pm; Sunday, 9am-7pm. Admission: Adults, $10-$15, depending on the day; children age 11 and younger admitted for free.

16th Annual Connecticut Renaissance Faire 
Dodd Stadium – 14 Stott Avenue
Norwich, CT 06360
Phone: 860-478-5954
Saturdays, Sundays and Columbus Day, Sept. 27 to Oct. 26, 2014
Hours: 10:30am-6pm. Parking: Free of charge. Admission: General (Ages 16+) $17, Youth (7-15) $10, Children 6 & under FREE.

New England Acoustic Music Festival 2014 
Main Street between Front (Route 44) and Lee streets
Putnam, CT
September 27, 2014
Hours: Gates open at 11:30 a.m. and music starts at noon. Festival ends at 9 p.m. Admission: $15 in advance and $20 at the door (includes one serving of beer, soda or water).

Oktoberfest at Quassy 2014 
Fieldside Pavilion, Quassy Amusement Park, Route 64
Middlebury, CT
Phone: 203-758-2913
September 27-28, 2014
Hours: 12-6pm. Admission: Free! Parking $6 per vehicle.

Berlin Fair 2014
Berlin Fairgrounds, 430 Beckley Road
East Berlin, CT
Phone: 860-828-0063
October 3-4, 2014
Hours: Friday, 11am – 10pm.; Saturday, 9am-10pm; Sunday, 9am-7pm. Admission: Adults, $12; seniors, $8; children under age 11, free.

Southington Apple Harvest Festival 2014 
On and around Town Green
Southington, CT 06489
October 3-5 and 10-12, 2014
Hours: Fridays, 5-9pm; Saturdays, 9am – 9pm; Sunday, October 5, noon – 7pm; Sunday, October 11, noon – 5pm. Admission: Free admission and parking.

Old Wethersfield Fall Craft Fair 2014 
Cove Park
Old Wethersfield, CT
October 4, 2014
Hours: 10am-4pm. Admission: $6, Children 12 and under FREE. Ample free parking!

Blue Slope Country Museum Fall Tyme Fest 2014 
Blue Slope Country Museum, 138 Blue Hill Road
Franklin, CT
October 4-5, 2014
Hours: Saturday, 10am-4pm; Sunday, 10am-3pm. Admission: Adults, $7; children age 4-14, $4.

Fall Festival & Swap Meet 2014 at Zagray Farm Museum
Zagray Farm Museum, 544 Amston Road (Route 85)
Colchester, CT
October 4-5, 2014
Hours: 8am-3pm. $5 per car.

Harwinton Fair 2014 
Locust Road
Harwinton, CT
Phone: 860-485-0464
October 4-5, 2014
Hours: Saturday, 8am-6pm; Sunday, 8am-5pm. Admission: Adults, $7; children age 12 and younger, free.

Portland Fair 2014 
Exchange Club Fairgrounds, Route 17A
Portland, CT
Phone: 860-342-0188
October 10-12, 2014
Hours: Friday, 5pm-11pm; Saturday, 10am-11pm; Sunday, 10am-5:30pm. Free off-site parking. Admission: Adults, $10; seniors, $6; children (under age 10), free.

Riverton Fair 2014 
Route 20
Riverton, CT
Phone: 860-738-4227
October 10-12, 2014
Hours: Friday, 5-10pm; Saturday and Sunday, 8am-6pm. Admission: Adults, $5; children under age 12, free. Free parking. Pets: Service animals only.

Garlic and Harvest Festival 2014 
Bethlehem Fairgrounds, 384 Main Street North (Route 61)
Bethlehem, CT
Phone: 203-266-7810
October 11-12, 2014
Hours: 10am to 5pm. Admission: Adults, $7; seniors, $6; children under age 12, $1.

Scotland Highland Festival at Waldo Homestead 2014 
Edward Waldo Homestead, 96 Waldo Road
Scotland, CT
October 12, 2014
Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Admission: Adults, $15; seniors and students, $10; kids age 6-12, $5. Parking location address: 130 Devotion Road, Scotland

Roseland Cottage Fine Arts & Crafts Festival 2014 
Roseland Cottage, 556 Route 169
Woodstock, CT
October 18-19, 2014
Hours: 10am-4:30pm. Admission: Free for Historic New England members and children under 12; $5 for nonmembers.


We wish you all the best for this lovely season!

#tbt: M. NourbeSe Philip, “Clues”



This week’s Throwback Thursday selection is “Clues,” from Philip’s 1993 book She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks (The Women’s Press Ltd). Wesleyan University Press will re-issue the book next year, with a new introduction from Evie Shockley, author of the new black.


nourbese blog




She gone—gone to where and don’t know
looking for me looking for she;
is pinch somebody pinch and tell me,
up where north marry cold I could find she—
Stateside, England, Canada—somewhere about,
“she still looking for you—
try the Black Bottom–Bathurst above Bloor,
Oakwood and Eglinton—even the suburbs them,
but don’t look for indigo hair and
skin of lime at Ontario Place,
or even the reggae shops;
stop looking for don’t see and can’t—
you bind she up tight with hope,
she own and yours knot up in together;
although she tight with nowhere and gone
she going find you, if you keep looking.”


Poet, essayist, lawyer, and novelist, M. NourbeSe Philip recently organized a series of participatory readings from Zong!, a masterful work exploring the anguish of some 150 enslaved Africans intentionally drowned at sea on November 29, 1781. These recent readings were participatory and ritual, and can be described as existing somewhere between noise and silence. The most recent event was on August 10th, at Trinity Bellwood Park in Toronto.



Click on the poster above for further information on the Zong case, and related events.
In addition, view a reading presented as a Wake for Trevon Martin, from Naropa University here.



M. NOURBESE PHILIP is a poet and writer and lawyer who was born in Tobago and now lives in Toronto. 


Samuel R. Delany’s “American Shore”

We are pleased to announce the release of a brand-new edition of The American Shore: Meditations on a Tale of Science Fiction by Thomas M. Disch —- “Angouleme,” with an introduction by Matthew Cheney.

 american shore

A keystone text in literary theory and science fiction The American Shore: Meditations on a Tale of Science Fiction by Thomas M. Disch—“Angouleme” was first published in 1978 to the intense interest of science fiction readers and the growing community of SF scholars. Recalling Nabokov’s commentary on Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, Roland Barthes’ commentary on Balzac’s Sarazine, and Grabinier’s reading of The Heart of Hamlet, this book-length essay helped prove the genre worthy of serious investigation. The American Shore is the third in a series of influential critical works by Samuel Delany, beginning with The Jewel-Hinged Jaw and Starboard Wine, first published in the late seventies and reissued over the last five years by Wesleyan University Press. Delany was honored with a Pilgrim Award for Science Fiction Scholarship from the Science Fiction Research Association of America. He has also received the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, and the William Whitehead Memorial Award for a lifetime’s contribution to gay and lesbian literature. In 2013, he was named the 31st Damon Knight Memorial Foundation Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This edition of The American Shore includes the author’s corrected text as well as a new introduction by Delany scholar Matthew Cheney. For more details, click here. Also available as an ebook—check with your favorite ebook retailer.

Telling Janet Collins’ story

Janet Collins, renowned dancer, painter, and the first African-American soloist ballerina to appear at the Metropolitan Opera, remains largely under-recognized. Actress and mother Karyn Parsons, who played Hilary Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, hopes to remedy this by sharing Collins’ story with those to whom it might be most important—children.


larger collage


Karyn created a Kickstarter campaign, which closes on July 18th, to fund the project. Donors will receive all manner of exciting prizes. There are signed posters, photographs, and books; chances to have a voicemail message recorded by Chris Rock or Jada Pinkett Smith; even opportunities to meet Rock or members of the cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

You can also select Welseyan’s book on Janet Collins, Night’s Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins by Yaël Tamar Lewin. As Collins wrote in her unfinished memoir, included in Night’s Dancer, her life was full of  “great thrills—and great chills.” Janet was born in 1917 to a poor but educated family in New Orleans. The family moved to Los Angeles soon after her birth, as her mother wanted to live in a place where her children “could go anywhere they wanted to, particularly the library.”

Janet’s talents became apparent at a young age, but as a black woman in the entirely white world of dance, she faced prejudice. At age fifteen she was offered a spot in the prestigious company Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, but only if she agreed to perform in whiteface. She refused. Later, she was unable to tour in the Jim Crow South.

Collins went on to star in Aida and Carmen, and eventually graced the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, its first black prima ballerina. Since then, she has been widely recognized as one of the finest dancers in America. Her artistic and personal influences continue to shape the dance world today.

It’s an important story, one that is sure to inspire todays young people. Visit the Kickstarter page to contribute. The campaign has garnered attention from BETThe Guardian, and NPR.

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.

#tbt: Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, “Worn Blues Refrain”

This week’s TBT selection is “Worn Blues Refrain,” from Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’ 2003 collection Outlandish BluesWesleyan is publishing her book, The Glory Gets, in Spring 2015.


jeffers TBT



Worn Blues Refrain

My father danced on Saturday mornings,
turned his fat professor’s legs the wrong way.
No rhythm self, tripping over Mama’s corns,
his jitterbug like a worn blues refrain.
Then the afternoons, he sat himself down
to the piano, knee pants memories
of Louis and his trumpet come to town.
Louis didn’t crack a smile. Don’t believe?
Want to dispute it?
 Dad didn’t think so
and commenced with Jelly Roll religion.
Those porcelain hours, demons stopped poking
my father. From someplace close he found love.
He got some rhythm when he played the blues,
hollered and touched us all without bruising.



HONOREÉ FANONNE JEFFERS  is the author of three books of poems, including Red Clay Suite (2007), Outlandish Blues (2003) and The Gospel of Barbecue (2000). Her next book, The Glory Gets, will be published by Wesleyan in Spring 2015. Her other honors include the 1999 Stan and Tom Wick Prize for Poetry for her first book and the 2002 Julia Peterkin Award for Poetry, as well as awards from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Rona Jaffe Foundation and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Antiquarian Society, the MacDowell Colony and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. A founding member of Cave Canem, the writer’s colony for African-American poets, Jeffers teaches at the University of Oklahoma, where she is Associate Professor of English.