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Award-Winning Author Pearl Cleage Creates Legacy of Literary Excellence

February 2016

Pearl-CleageAn accomplished playwright, journalist, poet and novelist, Spelman alumna and Atlanta-based writer Pearl Cleage, C'71, probes issues of race, sex, and love in a growing body of literary work while she reveals poignant truths about brave Black women. "The purpose of my writing, often, is to express the point where racism and sexism meet," says Cleage.

Cleage's work has won commercial acceptance and critical praise in several genres. An award- winning playwright whose "Flyin' West" was the most produced new play in the country in 1994, Cleage is also a best-selling author whose first novel, "What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day," was an Oprah Book Club pick and spent nine weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Her subsequent novels have been consistent best sellers and perennial book club favorites. "I Wish I Had A Red Dress," her second novel, won multiple book club awards in 2001. "Some Things I Never Thought I'd Do," was a Good Morning America! book club pick in 2003, and "Babylon Sisters" made the ESSENCE Magazine best-seller list in 2005. Her work "Baby Brother's Blues," was the first pick of the new ESSENCE Book Club and an NAACP Image Award winner for fiction in 2007.

In the March 2007 issue of ESSENCE, Cleage had two books on the best seller list, "Baby Brother's Blues" and "We Speak Your Names," a poetic celebration commissioned by Oprah Winfrey and co-authored with her husband, writer Zaron W. Burnett, Jr.

Cleage was a popular columnist with The Atlanta Tribune for ten years and has contributed as a freelance writer to ESSENCE, Ms., Rap Pages, VIBE and Ebony. Her  play, "A Song for Coretta," played to sold out audiences during its Atlanta premiere in February of 2007 and was produced at Atlanta's Seven Stages Theatre in February of 2008 in preparation for a national tour.

Cleage's work occupies a unique niche in contemporary African-American fiction. Her characters are as complex and multi-faceted as her readers lives and their balancing of work, love and family (not necessarily in that order) ring true to those who eagerly await each novel. She balances issues as challenging as AIDS, domestic violence and urban blight, but the distinguishing features of her books are her optimism, her commitment to positive change and transformation, and her unwavering faith in the possibility and power of romantic love.

Cleage is married to Zaron W. Burnett, Jr., with whom she frequently collaborates. She has one daughter, Deignan, and two grandchildren, Chloe and Michael.

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