By Anna Gelman
While How To Catch Creation’s character G.K. Marche is fictional, playwright Christina Anderson might have drawn inspiration from any number of writers, novelists, and thinkers who have shaped the history of American writing and fiction. Looking for a new book to read? Below are short biographies and selected works of Black women whose work might inspire you like Marche’s work inspires the character Stokes.
Click through the slide show below to learn more about these incomparable artists.
Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio in 1931, Toni Morrison has authored 11 novels, not to mention her contributions to short fiction, theatre, opera, nonfiction, and children’s literature. The recipient of over 25 awards, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, Morrison is perhaps best known for her novel Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award in 1988. Her most recent novel, God Bless the Child, came out in 2015. Morrison passed away in 2019 at the age of 88. Selected works: Beloved (1998), The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973)
Poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928. Best known for her poetry, Angelou also wrote essays, screenplays and seven autobiographies (works that are sometimes considered autobiographical fiction). Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993 and was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 (presented by President Barack Obama). She passed away in 2014 at the age of 86. Selected works: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (1969), I Shall Not Be Moved (1990), And Still I Rise (1978)
The first-ever science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, Octavia Butler (born in 1947 in Pasadena, California), authored three major series, as well as several stand-alone novels, short story collections and essay collections. Over the course of her career, she was a multiple-time recipient of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, literary awards specifically for the genres of science fiction and fantasy. Until her death in 2005, she taught at the Clarion Science Fiction Writer’s workshop, the very same workshop she attended as an up-and-coming writer. Selected works: Kindred (1979), Patternmaster (the first of the Patternist series, 1976), Fledgling (2005).
Born in Chicago in 1930, Lorraine Hansberry was the first Black woman to have a play performed on Broadway. In her short life (Hansberry passed away in 1965, at just 34 years old), she changed American theatre, becoming the first Black dramatist and the youngest playwright to receive the New York Drama Critics award. In addition to her most famous work A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry wrote essays, other plays (notably Les Blancs, which was unfinished at the time of her death) and contributed to the radical New York newspaper Freedom. Selected works: A Raisin in the Sun (1959), The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window (1965), To Be Young, Gifted and Black (Posthumous, 1969)
The third woman to ever be listed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, Angela Davis (born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1944) is a political activist and author who has twice been a Vice Presidential candidate as a member of the Communist Party of the United States. Davis became a divisive political figure in the 1970s and today, continues to speak out about the prison industrial complex, the United States’ broken immigration policies and other human rights issues. In January of 2019, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute rescinded the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award they initially awarded Davis, partially because of her staunch support of Palestine and boycott of Israel (the award was reinstated weeks later). In response, Davis said it was, “not primarily an attack against me but rather against the very spirit of the indivisibility of justice.” Selected Works: If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance (1971), Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003), Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (2015)
N. K. Jemisin
N.K. Jemisin is a contemporary fantasy and science fiction author (born in Iowa City, Iowa in 1972) and a psychologist. Her debut novel made waves, and earned Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy Awards nominations, eventually securing the 2001 Locus Award for Best First Novel. She has authored three distinct series of novels and became the first author to ever win three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel in 2018. Selected Works: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (2010), The Killing Moon (2012), The Stone Sky (2017)
“[United States] Libertad Para Angela Davis (1971)” by Penn State Special Collections Library is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0