Tribute to Michelle Cliff

Michelle Cliff smiling.

Michelle Cliff - poet, novelist, essayist, and activist - was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on November 2, 1946. Her childhood was split between Jamaica and New York, and she attended university in England, experiences that would inform the themes of memoir, history, racism, colonialism, and identity in her later work. In 1978, Cliff wrote her first essay, “Notes on Speechlessness,” for a women’s writing group in New York City. Subsequently, Cliff published prolifically, writing eight novels between 1985 and 2010; her essays also appeared in anthologies such as Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology and Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color.

In 1975, while working as a production editor for Norton Publishing, Cliff met her life partner, Adrienne Rich. In 1979, Rich and Cliff moved from New York to Montague, MA and then to Santa Cruz, CA. The couple took over editorship of Sinister Wisdom in 1981, a position they held until 1983. Cliff passed away from liver failure on June 12, 2016.

Read part of the tribute to Michelle Cliff in Sinister Wisdom 112: Moon and Cormorant.

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