Pearl Cleage (born December 7, 1948) is an African-American author whose work, both fiction and non-fiction, has been widely recognized. Her novel What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day was a 1998 Oprah Book Club selection. Cleage is known for her feminist views, particularly regarding her identity as an African-American woman. Cleage teaches drama at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.
Early life and career
Pearl Cleage was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, the daughter of Doris Cleage (née Graham), a teacher, and the late civil rights activist Bishop Albert Cleage. After backlash resulting from her father's radical teachings, the family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Bishop Cleage became a prominent civil rights leader. Cleage first attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1966 majoring in playwriting and dramatic literature. However she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to attend Spelman College in 1969, where she attained a bachelor's degree in drama in 1971. She then joined the Spelman faculty as a writer and playwright in residence and as a creative director. Cleage has written many novels, plays, and non-fiction works borrowing heavily from her life experiences. Many of her novels are set in neighborhoods in Atlanta, Georgia.
Cleage notably writes about topics at the intersection of sexism and racism, specifically on issues such as domestic violence and rape in the black community. She has been a supporter of the Obama administration. Cleage is an activist for AIDS and women's rights, experiences from which she draws from for her writings.
In 1969, Cleage married Michael Lomax, an Atlanta politician and past-president of Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. They had a daughter, Deignan Njeri. The marriage ended in divorce in 1979. In 1994, Cleage married Zaron Burnett, Jr, writer and director for the Just Us Theater Company. She has four grandchildren.
Cleage is a former Cosby Endowed Chair at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She also speaks at colleges, universities, and conferences on topics including domestic violence, the citizen's role in a participatory democracy, and writing topics.
- 2013 Theatre Legend Award - Atlanta Black Theatre Festival
- 1983 Five AUDELCO Awards for Outstanding Achievement Off-Broadway, 1983
- 2010 Sankofa Freedom Award
- The Brass Bed and Other Stories (1991; ISBN 0-88378-127-1)
- What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (1997; ISBN 0-380-97584-X)
- I Wish I Had a Red Dress (2001; ISBN 0-694-52418-2)
- Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do (2003; ISBN 0-345-45606-8)
- Babylon Sisters: A Novel (2005; ISBN 0-345-45609-2)
- Baby Brother's Blues (2006; ISBN 0-345-48110-0)
- Seen It All and Done the Rest (2008; ISBN 0-345-48113-5)
- Till You Hear From Me (2010; ISBN 0-345-50637-5)
- Just Wanna Testify (2011; ISBN 0-345-50636-7)
- Flyin' West (1995; ISBN 0-8222-1465-2)
- Blues for an Alabama Sky (1999; ISBN 0-8222-1634-5)
- Bourbon at the Border (2006; ISBN 0-8222-2075-X)
- We Speak Your Names: A Celebration, with Zaron W. Burnett (2006; ISBN 0-7861-7442-0)
- A Song for Coretta, (2008; ISBN 978-0-8222-2239-2)
- What I Learned in Paris
- Mad at Miles: A Black Woman's Guide to Truth (1990; ISBN 0-9628142-0-2)
- Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot (1993; ISBN 0-345-38278-1)
- Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons and Love Affairs (2014; ISBN 978-1451664690)