J. California Cooper

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J. California Cooper
J. California Cooper.jpg
BornJoan Cooper
(1931-11-10)November 10, 1931
Berkeley, California, U.S.
DiedSeptember 20, 2014(2014-09-20) (aged 82)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Genresplaywright, short stories
Notable awards1989 American Book Award

Joan Cooper (November 10, 1931, Berkeley, California – September 20, 2014, Seattle, Washington), known by her pen name, J. California Cooper, was an American playwright and author. She wrote 17 plays and was named Black Playwright of the Year in 1978 for her play Strangers.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Alice Walker has said of Cooper:

In its strong folk flavor, Cooper's work reminds us of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Like theirs, her style is deceptively simple and direct and the vale of tears in which her characters reside is never so deep that a rich chuckle at a foolish person's foolishness cannot be heard.[2]

It was at the encouragement of Walker that Cooper turned from her claim to fame in the theater and started writing short stories.[3] Her first collection A Piece of Mine was published in 1984 by Wild Trees Press, the publishing company founded by Walker.[2] Two other story collections followed, before the release of her first novel, Family, in 1991. Cooper wrote Funny Valentines, which later was turned into a 1999 TV movie starring Alfre Woodard and Loretta Devine.[4]

Awards Cooper won include the American Book Award (for her 1986 short-story collection Homemade Love), a James Baldwin Writing Award and a Literary Lion Award from the American Library Association.[5]

She died in Seattle, Washington, in 2014 at the age of 82.[5][6][7]


  • 1984: A Piece of Mine
  • 1986: Homemade Love, 1989 American Book Award winner[8]
  • 1987: Some Soul to Keep
  • 1991: Family
  • 1991: The Matter Is Life
  • 1994: In Search of Satisfaction
  • 1996: Some Love, Some Pain, Some Time: Stories
  • 1998: The Wake of the Wind
  • 2001: The Future Has a Past
  • 2003: Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife (contributor), edited by Carleen Brice
  • 2004: Some People, Some Other Place
  • 2006: Wild Stars Seeking Midnight Suns: Stories
  • 2009: Life is Short but Wide

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Margaret Busby, Daughters of Africa (Jonathan Cape, 1992), p. 608.
  2. ^ a b Busby, Daughters of Africa, p. 609.
  3. ^ African American Literature Book Club
  4. ^ Filmography for J. California Cooper, The New York Times; accessed October 5, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Misha Berson (September 22, 2014). "Obituary: J. (Joan) California Cooper". The Seattle Times. Retrieved September 23, 2014.
  6. ^ Stephen Wynn (September 22, 2014). "Writer J. California Cooper Dies at 82". Ebony.
  7. ^ Matt Schudel (September 27, 2014). "J. California Cooper, author of tales of African American life, dies at 82". The Washington Post.
  8. ^ American Booksellers Association (2013). "The American Book Awards / Before Columbus Foundation [1980–2012]". BookWeb. Archived from the original on March 13, 2013. Retrieved September 25, 2013. 1989 ... Homemade Love, J. California Cooper

External links[edit]