Pearl Cleage

Pearl Cleage (born December 7, 1948) is an African-American author whose work, both fiction and non-fiction, has been widely recognized. Her novel What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day was a 1998 Oprah Book Club selection. Cleage is known for her feminist views, particularly regarding her identity as an African-American woman. Cleage teaches drama at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Pearl Cleage was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, the daughter of Doris Cleage née Graham), a teacher, and the late civil rights activist Bishop Albert Cleage. After backlash resulting from her father’s radical teachings, the family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Bishop Cleage became a prominent civil rights leader. Cleage first attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1966 majoring in playwriting and dramatic literature. However she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to attend Spelman College in 1969, where she eventually attained a bachelor’s degree in drama in 1971. She then joined the Spelman faculty as a writer and playwright in residence and as a creative director. Cleage has written many novels, plays, and non-fiction works borrowing heavily from her life experiences. Many of her novels are set in neighborhoods in Atlanta, Georgia.

Cleage notably writes about topics at the intersection of sexism and racism, specifically on issues such as domestic violence and rape in the black community. She has been a supporter of the Obama administration. Cleage is an activist for AIDS and women’s rights, experiences from which she draws from for her writings.

Pearl Cleage is the author of Mad at Miles: A Black Woman’s Guide to Truth and Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot. An accomplished Playwright, she teaches playwriting at Spelman College, is a cofounder of the literary magazine Catalyst and writes a column for the Atlanta Tribune. Ms. Cleage lives in Atlanta with her husband.

Author website:

Books in order of publication:


  • The Brass Bed and Other Stories (1991)
  • What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (1997)
  • I Wish I Had a Red Dress (2001)
  • Some Things I Never Thought I’d Do (2003)
  • Babylon Sisters: A Novel (2005)
  • Baby Brother’s Blues (2006)
  • Seen It All and Done the Rest (2008)
  • Till You Hear From Me (2010)
  • Just Wanna Testify (2011)


  • Puppetplay (1981)
  • Hospice (1983)
  • Good News (1984)
  • Essentials (1985)
  • Porch Songs (1985)
  • Come Get These Memories (1987)
  • Chain (1992)
  • Late Bus to Mecca (1992)
  • Flyin’ West (1992)
  • Blues for an Alabama Sky (1995)
  • Bourbon at the Border (1997)
  • We Speak Your Names: A Celebration, with Zaron W. Burnett (2006)
  • A Song for Coretta, (2008)
  • What I Learned in Paris
  • The Nacirema Society (2013)
  • Tell Me My Dream (2015)
  • Angry, Raucous and Shamelessly Gorgeous (2019)


  • Dear Dark Faces: Portraits of a People (1980)
  • One for the Brothers (1983)
  • We Speak Your Names: A Celebration (2005)
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