Michelle Cliff

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Michelle Cliff
Born2 November 1946 Edit this on Wikidata
Kingston, Jamaica
Died12 June 2016 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 69)
Alma mater
WorksAbeng (1985); No Telephone to Heaven (1987); Free Enterprise (2004)

Michelle Carla Cliff (2 November 1946 – 12 June 2016) was a Jamaican-American author whose notable works included Abeng (novel) (1985), No Telephone to Heaven (1987), and Free Enterprise (2004).

In addition to novels, Cliff also wrote short stories, prose poems and works of literary criticism. Her works explore the various complex identity problems that stem from the experience of post-colonialism, as well as the difficulty of establishing an authentic individual identity in the face of race and gender constructs. A historical revisionist, many of Cliff's works seek to advance an alternative view of history against established mainstream narratives.


Cliff was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1946 and moved with her family to New York City three years later.[1] She moved back to Jamaica in 1956 and attended St. Andrew High School for Girls, where she kept a diary and began writing, before returning to New York City in 1960.[2] She was educated at Wagner College (New York) and the Warburg Institute at the University of London. She has held academic positions at several colleges including Trinity College and Emory University.

Cliff was a contributor to the 1983 Black feminist anthology Home Girls.

From 1999, Cliff lived in Santa Cruz, California,[3] with her partner, the American poet Adrienne Rich. The two had been partners since 1976; Rich died in 2012.[4]

Cliff died of liver failure on 12 June 2016.[5][2]



  • 2010: Into the Interior (University of Minnesota Press). Novel
  • 2009: Everything is Now: New and Collected Stories (University of Minnesota Press). Short stories
  • 2004: Free Enterprise: A Novel of Mary Ellen Pleasant (City Lights Publishers). Novel
  • 1998: The Store of a Million Items (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company). Short stories
  • 1993: Free Enterprise: A Novel of Mary Ellen Pleasant (New York: Dutton). Novel
  • 1990: Bodies of Water (New York: Dutton). Short stories
  • 1987: No Telephone to Heaven (New York: Dutton). Novel (sequel to Abeng)
  • 1985: Abeng (New York: Penguin). Novel

Prose poetry[edit]

  • 1985: The Land of Look Behind and Claiming (Firebrand Books).
  • 1980: Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Despise (Persephone Press).


  • 1982: Lillian Smith, The Winner Names the Age: A Collection of Writings (New York: Norton).



In 1981, Cliff became an associate of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press.[6]

Further reading[edit]

  • Curry, Ginette. "Toubab La!": Literary Representations of Mixed-race Characters in the African Diaspora. Newcastle, England: Cambridge Scholars Pub., 2007.
  • Cartelli, Thomas (1995), "After the Tempest: Shakespeare, Postcoloniality, and Michelle Cliff's New, New World Miranda," Contemporary Literature 36(1): 82–102.
  • Edmondson, Belinda (1993), "Race, Writing, and the Politics of (Re)Writing History: An Analysis of the Novels of Michelle Cliff," Callaloo 16(1): 180–191.
  • Lima, Maria Helena (1993), "Revolutionary Developments: Michelle Cliff's No Telephone to Heaven and Merle Collins's Angel," Ariel 24(1): 35–56.
  • Lionnet, Francoise (1992), "Of Mangoes and Maroons: Language, History, and the Multicultural Subject of Michelle Cliff's Abeng," in Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson (eds), De/Colonizing the Subject: The Politics of Gender in Women's Autobiography, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 321–345.
  • Machado Sáez, Elena (2015), "Writing the Reader: Literacy and Contradictory Pedagogies in Julia Alvarez, Michelle Cliff, and Marlon James", Market Aesthetics: The Purchase of the Past in Caribbean Diasporic Fiction, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, ISBN 978-0-8139-3705-2.
  • Raiskin, Judith (1994), "Inverts and Hybrids: Lesbian Rewritings of Sexual and Racial Identities," in Laura Doan, ed. The Lesbian Postmodern, New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 156–172.
  • Raiskin, Judith (1993), "The Art of History: An Interview with Michelle Cliff," Kenyon Review 15(1): 57-71.
  • Schwartz, Meryl F. (1993), "An Interview with Michelle Cliff," Contemporary Literature 34(4): 595-619.


  1. ^ Agatucci, Cora (1999). "Michelle Cliff (1946- )". In Nelson, Emmanuel S. (ed.). Contemporary African American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 95. ISBN 0-313-30501-3. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
  2. ^ a b Grimes, William (18 June 2016). "Michelle Cliff, Who Wrote of Colonialism and Racism, Dies at 69", The New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  3. ^ Diedrich, Lisa. "Michelle Cliff". Postcolonial Studies @ Emory University.
  4. ^ "Adrienne Rich, 1929-", a time line, credited as "Page by Chelsea Hoffman, Fall 1999", at the Drew University Women's Studies Program website.
  5. ^ Opal Palmer Adisa (17 June 2016), Tribute to Jamaican-American author, Michelle Cliff (11/2/1946-6/12/2016.
  6. ^ "Associates | The Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press". www.wifp.org. Retrieved 21 June 2017.

External links[edit]