Samira Azzam, Journalist, Broadcaster, and Short Story Writer

Samira Azzam (September 13, 1927 – August 8, 1967) was a journalist and broadcaster who left her mark on Palestinian literature. Her numerous short stories reflected the Palestinian experience of the 1950s and 1960s.

She was born in Acre (in what was then the Palestinian Mandate and today is Israel). Acre is located on the Mediterranean coast, often known locally as Akko.

Had she lived today, she might have been a social media influencer, as she started writing reviews and essays for the newspaper Filistin, signing them “A Girl from the Coast” while still a teen. Azzam was apparently a dedicated student: she became a teacher at the age of sixteen. Read More→

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Alice Childress, Author of Trouble in Mind

Playwright and novelist Alice Childress (October 12, 1916 – August 14, 1994) was a prolific and influential contributor to American theater and letters throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Her first full-length play, Trouble in Mindpremiered in 1955 and won an Obie.

Another play, Wedding Band, was shown on network television in 1974 (though network affiliates in several southern states refused to carry it).  

None of this would have mattered to Childress who said, “I never was ever interested in being the first woman to do anything. I always felt that I should be the 50th or the 100th. Women were kept out of everything.”

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Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress – Playwright, Novelist & Activist

The first full-length play by Alice Childress, Trouble in Mind, premiered in 1955 at an interracial theater co-sponsored by a Presbyterian church and a synagogue in Greenwich Village.

According to accounts at the time, the audience “applauded and shouted bravos, and would not leave their seats until the author was brought on stage.” Despite initial audience enthusiasm, decades would pass before the play received the recognition it has today as a classic of American theater.

The show received an Obie Award for best original off-Broadway play that season and was slated to open on Broadway in 1957, but Childress herself pulled the plug on that production. Read More→

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Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall (1983)

Praisesong for the Widow is widely regarded as Paule Marshall’s most eloquent statement of the need for African Americans to understand and embrace their heritage even as they pursue equality and success.

Praisesong was initially published in 1983 and reissued in 2021 in a handsome edition by McSweeney’s as the second volume in its Diaspora series.

Praisesong is the first of Marshall’s novels to feature a middle-class Black American woman at its center, a woman who experiences what was also a defining moment in Paule Marshall’s own life: the Big Drum ceremony on the tiny Caribbean island of Carriacou. Read More→

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The Chosen Place, The Timeless People by Paule Marshall (1969)

The Chosen Place, The Timeless People, was the second full-length novel by Paule Marshall (1929 – 2019). Following her first novel, Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959), she published a collection of four novellas in Soul Clap Hands and Sing (1961).

In its recognition of the intersectionality of race, class, and colonialism,The Chosen Place, The Timeless People was ahead of its time.

A New York Times reviewer called it “the best novel to be written by an American Black woman” when it was published in 1969. Such praise sounds patronizing in the present day, but let’s discount the reviewer’s limitations and focus on the recognition the comment represented. Read More→

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