Cliff, Michelle

Born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in New York, Michelle Cliff was a Jamaican-American writer whose short stories, novels, and essays explored race, gender, sexuality, and post-colonialism. She received her BA in European History from Warner College and her Master of Philosophy at the Warburg Institute. Cliff worked at Time-Life Books, W.W. Norton, and held positions at various colleges. Cliff died in 2016 at the age of 69, just two years after her partner, Adrienne Rich, passed away.


Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Despise. Watertown: Persephone Press, 1980.
Abeng: A Novel. Trumansburg: Crossing Press, 1984.
The Land of Look Behind: Prose and Poetry. Ithaca: Firebrand Books, 1985.
No Telephone to Heaven. New York: Dutton, 1987.
Bodies of Water. New York: Dutton, 1990.
Free Enterprise. New York: Dutton, 1993.
The Store of a Million Items: Stories. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.
If I Could Write This in Fire. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.
Into the Interior. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.
Everything is Now: New and Collected Stories. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

"Object Into Subject: Some thoughts on the Work of Black Women Artists." Heresies. 1983.
"Clare Savage as a Crossroads Character." Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference. 1990.
"History as Fiction, Fiction as History." Ploughshares 20, no. 2/3 (1994): 196-202.
"Colonial Girl: and What Would it be Like." Sex and the Citizen: Interrogating the Caribbean. 2011.


“Notes on Speechlessness.” Sinister Wisdom, no. 5. 1978.
“Anonymity and the Denial of the Self.” Sinister Wisdom, no. 9, 1979.
“A Review of Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Joan Gibbs.” Sinister Wisdom, no. 13, 1980.
“Notes on a Magazine.” Sinister Wisdom, no. 17, 1981.
“Marking Soul, Creating Alchemy: a review of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Colour.” Sinister Wisdom, no. 19, 1982.
“If I could Write this in Fire, I would Write this in Fire” in Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, edited by Barbara Smith. New York: Kitchen Table – Women of Color Press, 1983.
“Sister/Outsider: Some Thoughts on Simone Weil” in Between Women: Biographers, Novelists, Critics, Teachers, and Artists Write About Their Work on Women, edited by Carol Ascher, Louise A. DeSalvo, and Sara Ruddick. Boston: Beacon Press, 1984.
“A Journey Into Speech; If I could Write this in Fire, I would Write This in Fire” in Multi-Cultural Literacy, edited by Rick Simonson and Scott Walker. Saint Paul: Graywolf Press, 1988.
“Clare Savage as a Crossroads Character” in Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference, edited by Selwyn Reginald Cudjoe. Wellesley: Calaloux Publications, 1990.
“Object into Subject: Some Thoughts on the work of Black Women Artists” in Making Face, Making Soul = Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color, edited by Gloria Anzaldúa. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Foundation Books, 1990.
“Columba” in Green Cane and Juicy Flotsam: Short Stories by Caribbean Women, edited by Carmen C Esteves and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991.
“Screen Memory” in Calling the Wind: Twentieth Century African-American Short Stories, edited by Clarence Major. New York: HarperPerennial, 1993.
“A History of Costume” in The Oxford Book of Women’s Writing in the United States, edited by Linda Wagner-Martin and Cathy N. Davidson, 301-304. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
“Columba” in Ancestral House: The Black Short Story in the Americas and Europe, edited by Charles H Rowell. Boulder: Westview Press, 1995.
“Within the Veil; Columba” in The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, edited by Henry Louis Gates Nellie Y. McKay. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1996. (also 1997, 2004)
“Transactions” in The Best American Short Stories, 1997: Selected from U.S. and Canadian Magazines, edited by Annie Proulx and Katrina Kenison. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
“Excerpt from Abeng” in The Whistling Bird: Women Writers of the Caribbean, edited by Elaine Campbell and Pierrette M Frickey. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998.
“Ecce Homo” in Black Like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual African American Fiction 2000, edited by Devon W. Carbado, Dwight A McBride, Donald Weise, and Evelyn C White. San Francisco: Cleis Press, 2002.
“Women’s Work” in Poems from the Women’s Movement, edited by Honor Moore. New York: Library of America, 2009.

Critical Work about Cliff:
Smith, Sidonie and Julia Watson. “Of Mangoes and Maroons: Language, History, and the Multicultural Subject of Michelle Cliff’s Abeng” in De/Colonizing the Subject: The Politics of Gender in Women’s Autobiography. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992.
Aegerter, Lindsay Pentolfe. "Michelle Cliff and the Paradox of Privilege." College English 59, no. 8 (1997): 898-915. doi:10.2307/378298.
Chancy, Myriam J. A. “Remembering Ourselves: The Power of the Erotic in Works by Audre Lorde, Rosa Guy, and Michelle Cliff; Exile, Resistance, Home: Retelling History in the Writings of Michelle Cliff and Marie Chauvet” in Searching for Safe Spaces: Afro-Caribbean Women Writers in Exile. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997.
Rody, Caroline. “Decolonizing Jamaica’s Daughter: Learning History in the Novels of Michelle Cliff” in The Daughter’s Return: African-American and Caribbean Women’s Fictions of History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Ilmonen, Kaisa. “Creolizing the Queer: Close Encounters of Race and Sexuality in the Novels of Michelle Cliff.” Close Encounters of an Other Kind: New Perspectives on Race, Ethnicity and American Studies, 2005.
Fenton, Jocelyn Stitt. “Gendered Legacies of Romantic Nationalism in the Works of Michelle Cliff.” Small Axe: A Journal of Criticism, no. 24 (2007): 52-72.
Maisier, Veronique. “Representations of History in Michelle Cliff’s and Patrick Chamoiseau’s Novels.” Journal of West Indian Literature vol. 20, no. 1 (2011). 51-69.

Book Reviews of Cliff's Work:
Gomez, Jewelle. "Coming of Age in Jamaica." The Women's Review of Books 1, no. 8 (1984): 5-6. doi:10.2307/4019482.
Smilowitz, Erika J. "Tales of the Caribbean." The Women's Review of Books 5, no. 2 (1987): 13-14. doi:10.2307/4020090.
Scales-Trent, Judy. "Produced and Abandoned." The Women's Review of Books 7, no. 12 (1990): 15. doi:10.2307/4020846.
McDowell, Deborah. "Taking Liberties with History." The Women's Review of Books 11, no. 10/11 (1994): 32-33. doi:10.2307/4021882.

Cliff, Michelle, Tacie Dejanikus, and Loie Hayes. "Interview: Claiming an Identity: An Interview with Michelle Cliff." Off Our Backs 11, no. 6 (1981): 18-20.
Schwartz, Meryl F., and Michelle Cliff. "An Interview with Michelle Cliff." Contemporary Literature 34, no. 4 (1993): 595-619. doi:10.2307/1208803.
Judith Raiskin, and Michelle Cliff. "The Art of History: An Interview with Michelle Cliff." The Kenyon Review 15, no. 1 (1993): 57-71.
Adisa, Opal Palmer. "Journey into Speech-A Writer between Two Worlds: An Interview with Michelle Cliff." African American Review 28, no. 2 (1994): 273-81. doi:10.2307/3041999.

Lindfors, Bernth and Reinhard Sander. “Michelle Cliff” in Twentieth-Century Caribbean and Black African Writers. Detroit: Gale Research, 1996.
Novak, Terry “Michelle Cliff” in Contemporary African American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, edited by Emmanuel S Nelson. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1999.
Hogeland, Lisa Maria and Mary Klages“Michelle Cliff 1946” in The Aunt Lute Anthology of U.S. Women Writers, edited by Lisa Maria Hogeland and Mary Klages. Edition: First Edition, 2004.
Basu, Lopamudra “Michelle Cliff” in Encyclopedia of African American Women Writers, edited by Yolanda Williams Page. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007.

Michelle Cliff papers, 1982-1994. MS 3242. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.

Michelle Cliff archive at Spelman College.
Items of note:
complete set of all the different editions of Michelle Cliff's books, including some bound galleys and translations
family and childhood photographs
six U.S. passports, issued 1968, '73, '78, '83, '93, '04
Michelle Cliff's diplomas from high school, college, and grad school at the Warburg Institute
M. Phil dissertation from Warburg on renaissance history
misc. papers relating to a visit by Queen Elizabeth at the Warburg Institute including two photos of the Queen with E.H. Gombrich
letter of recommendation by E.H. Gombrich, letter of recommendation by Gene Farmer at TimeLife Books
digital files of drafts of stories and translations from Cliff's laptop
a short typescript (unexamined) that may be a collection of talks and lectures and may be an original unpublished work
posters related to Cliff's public lectures
ephemera and decorative items from Cliff's study
framed letter from Ann Petry to Michelle Cliff
books related to art history, Caribbean studies, African American history, some signed by the authors, or inscribed to Michelle Cliff (including the Handbook of Black Librarianship signed by Ann Allen Shockley)

Bibliography Compiled by Zane DeZeeuw. May 2017