Jewelle Gomez

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Jewelle Gomez (born September 11, 1948, in Boston, Massachusetts) is an American author, poet, critic and playwright. She lived in New York City for 22 years, working in public television, theatre as well as philanthropy, before relocating to the West Coast. Her writing—fiction, poetry, essays and cultural criticism—has appeared in a wide variety of outlets, both feminist and mainstream. Her work often intersects and addresses multiple ethnicities as well as the ideals of lesbian/feminism and issues. She has been interviewed for several documentaries focused on LGBT rights and culture.


Jewelle Gomez was born on September 11, 1948, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Dolores Minor LeClaire, a nurse, and John Gomez, a bartender.[1] Gomez was raised by her great-grandmother, Grace, who was born on Indian land in Iowa to an African-American mother and Ioway father. Grace returned to New England before she was 14, when her father died and was married to John E. Morandus, a Wampanoag and descendant of Massasoit, the sachem for whom Massachusetts was named.

Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s Gomez was shaped socially and politically by the close family ties with her great-grandmother, Grace, and grandmother Lydia. Their history of independence as well as marginalization in an African-American community are referenced throughout her work. "Grace A." from the collection Don't Explain is an early example.[2] During her high school and college years Gomez was involved with Black political and social movements which is reflected in much of her writing. Subsequent years in New York City she spent in Black theatre including work with the Frank Silvera Writers Workshop and many years as a stage manager for off-Broadway productions.

During this time she became involved in lesbian feminist activism and magazine publication. She was a member of Conditions, a lesbian feminist literary magazine. More of her recent writing has begun to reflect her Native American (Ioway, Wampanoag) heritage.


Kim Shuck (Cherokee-Sac and Fox), Jewelle Gomez (Iowa), L. Frank (Tongva-Acjachemen) and Reid Gómez (Navajo), Native women writers

Gomez is the author of seven books, including the double Lambda Literary Award-winning novel The Gilda Stories (Firebrand Books, 1991) .[3] This novel has been in print since 1991 and reframes the traditional vampire mythology, taking a lesbian feminist perspective; it is an adventure about an escaped slave who comes of age over two hundred years. According to scholar Elyce Rae Helford, "Each stage of Gilda's personal voyage is also a study of life as part of multiple communities, all at the margins of mainstream white middle-class America."[4]

She also authored the theatrical adaptation of her novel Bones and Ash that in 1996 toured 13 U.S. cities performed by the Urban Bush Women Company.[5] The book, which remains in print, was also issued by the Quality Paperback Book Club in an edition including the play.

Her other books include Don't Explain, a collection of short fiction; 43 Septembers, a collection of personal/political essays; and Oral Tradition: Selected Poems Old and New.

Her fiction and poetry is included in more than a hundred anthologies, including the first anthology of Black speculative fiction, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (2000)[6] edited by Sheree R. Thomas;[7] Home Girls: a Black Feminist Anthology from Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, Daughters of Africa edited by Margaret Busby (1992), and Best American Poetry of 2001, edited by Robert Hass.[8]

Gomez has written literary and film criticism for numerous publications including The Village Voice, the San Francisco Chronicle, Ms. and The Black Scholar.

Over the past 25 years she has been frequently interviewed in periodicals and journals, including a September 1993 Advocate article where writer Victoria Brownworth[9] discussed her writing origins and political interests. In the Journal of Lesbian Studies (Vol. 5, No. 3) she was interviewed for an article entitled "Funding Lesbian Activism," which linked her career in philanthropy with her political roots. She was also interviewed in the 1999 film produced for Public Television, After Stonewall, directed by John Scagliotti.

Her newest work includes a forthcoming comic novel, Televised, recounting the lives of survivors of the Black Nationalist movement, which was excerpted in the 2002 anthology Gumbo,[10] edited by Marita Golden and E. Lynn Harris.

She authored a play about James Baldwin, Waiting For Giovanni, in 2010 in collaboration with Harry Waters Jr., an actor and professor in the theatre department at MacAlester College.[11] Readings have been held in San Francisco at Intersection for the Arts[12] at a seminar on Baldwin at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., at the Yellow Springs Writers Workshop in Ohio, AfroSolo Festival and the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival. Gomez and Waters were interviewed on the public radio program Fresh Fruit on KFAI[13] by host Dixie Trechel in 2008. The segment also includes two short readings from the script.


Gomez was on the original staff of Say Brother (now Basic Black), one of the first weekly Black television shows (WGBH-TV Boston, 1968), and was on the founding board of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in 1984.

She also served on the early boards of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation and the Open Meadows Foundation, both devoted to funding women's organizations and activities. She's been a member of the board of the Cornell University Human Sexuality Archives and the advisory board of the James Hormel LGBT Center of the main San Francisco Public Library. She was a member of the loose-knit philanthropic collective founded in San Francisco in 1998 called 100 Lesbians and Our Friends. The group, co-founded by Andrea Gillespie and Diane Sabin, was designed to educate lesbians who were culturally miseducated—as women—about the use of money and benefits of philanthropy. The philosophy of making "stretch gifts" (not reducing contributions already being made) to lesbian groups and projects raised more than $200,000 in two years.

She was a commencement speaker at the University of California at Los Angeles Queer Commencement and acted as a keynote speaker twice for Gay Pride in New York City and as a host for Pride San Francisco.[citation needed]

She and her partner, Dr. Diane Sabin, were among the litigants against the state of California suing for the right to legal marriage.[14] The case was brought to the courts by the City Attorney of San Francisco, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). GOMEZ has written extensively about gay rights since the 1980s, including articles on equal marriage in Ms. Magazine and has been quoted extensively during the court case.[15] In May 2008 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the litigants, allowing marriage between same-sex couples in the state of California. Such ceremonies may legally begin after 30 days, allowing municipalities to make administrative changes. Gomez and Sabin were among 18,000 couples married in California before (Proposition 8), which banned further same-sex marriages in California, was approved by the voters on November 4, 2008.[16]


Formerly the executive director of the Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State University, she has also had a long career in philanthropy. She was the director of Cultural Equity Grants at the San Francisco Arts Commission and the director of the Literature Program for the New York State Council on the Arts.[17]

She has presented lectures and taught at numerous institutions of higher learning including San Francisco State University, Hunter College, Rutgers University, New College of California, Grinnell College, San Diego City College, Ohio State University, and the University of Washington (Seattle). She is the former director of the Literature Program at the New York State Council on the Arts and of Cultural Equity Grants at the San Francisco Arts Commission.[18] She also served as executive director of the Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State University.

She is currently employed as Director of Grants and Community Initiatives for Horizons Foundation,[19] the oldest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender foundation in the US. She formerly served as the President of the San Francisco Public Library Commission.[20][21]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • The Gilda Stories: Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition (City Lights Publishers, 2016)
  • Don't Explain: Short Fiction (Firebrand Books, 1998)
  • Swords of the Rainbow (Alyson Books, 1996, edited with Eric Garber)
  • Oral Tradition: Selected Poems Old and New (Firebrand Books, 1995)
  • Forty-Three Septembers (Firebrand Books, 1993)
  • The Gilda Stories: A Novel (Firebrand Books, 1991)
  • Flamingos and Bears (Grace Publications, 1986)
  • The Lipstick Papers (1980)


  1. ^ "Gomez, Jewelle 1948–". Retrieved August 8, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Don't Explain", needtochange.
  3. ^ "Guide to the Jewelle Gomez Interview, 1998", Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
  4. ^ Utopian Studies March 22, 2001.
  5. ^ Keehnen, Owen (1993). "Family Matters: An interview with Jewelle Gomez". Retrieved August 11, 2007. 
  6. ^ "Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora", Hachette Book Group USA.
  7. ^ Sheree R. Thomas, AALBC.
  8. ^ The Best American Poetry Series | Series Archive
  9. ^ Victoria A Brownworth
  10. ^ Marita Golden and E. Lynn Harris (eds), Gumbo: An Anthology of African American Writing
  11. ^ Harry Waters Jr. MacAlester College.
  12. ^ Intersection for the Arts
  13. ^ KFAI Radio Without Boundaries | 90.3 Minneapolis | 106.7 St. Paul
  14. ^ "California Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments in Marriage Case on March 4" (Press Release), NCLR.
  15. ^ Wyatt Buchanan, "How gays’ attitudes toward marriage evolved", San Francisco Chronicle, June 15, 2008.
  16. ^ "Jewelle Gomez and Diane Sabin". The New York Times. November 2, 2008. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  17. ^ NYSCA : New York State Council on the Arts
  18. ^ San Francisco Arts Commission.
  19. ^ Horizons Foundation Home
  20. ^ "Writer Jewelle Gomez to receive award", Windy City Times, May 4, 2016.
  21. ^ San Francisco SFGov Archived March 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]