Joyce Carol Thomas

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Joyce Carol Thomas
Born(1938-05-25)May 25, 1938
Ponca City, Oklahoma
DiedAugust 13, 2016(2016-08-13) (aged 78)
Stanford, California
  • Poet
  • playwright
  • speaker
  • author
Alma materSan Jose State University
Stanford University
Notable worksMarked by Fire
Bright Shadow
Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea
The Blacker the Berry
Notable awardsNational Book Award (1983)
American Book Award

Joyce Carol Thomas (May 25, 1938 – August 13, 2016)[1] was an African-American poet, playwright, motivational speaker, and author of more than 30 children's books.


Thomas was born in Ponca City, Oklahoma, the fifth of nine children in a family of cotton pickers. In 1948 they moved to Tracy, California, to pick vegetables. She learned Spanish from Mexican migrant workers and earned a B.A. in Spanish from San Jose State University. She took night classes in education at Stanford University, while raising four children, and received the master's degree in 1967.[1]

Literary awards[edit]

For her 1982 novel Marked by Fire, Thomas won a National Book Award in category Children's Fiction (paperback)[2][a] and an American Book Award. Thomas has been one of three to five finalists for the Coretta Scott King Award thrice, in 1984 for Bright Shadow, in 1994 for Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea, and in 2009 for The Blacker the Berry in 2009. Part of the American Library Association program, the King Award annually recognizes the "most distinguished portrayal of African American experience in literature for children or teens".[3] She also received a New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year Award[clarification needed] and an Outstanding Woman of the 20th Century Award.[clarification needed]

Personal life[edit]

Thomas resided in Berkeley, California.[1] She died on August 13, 2016 at the age of 78.[4]


  1. ^ Thomas shared the 1982 award for paperback Children's Fiction.
    From 1980 to 1983 in National Book Award history there were dual awards for hardcover and paperback books in many categories. Most of the paperback award-winners were reprints, including Paula Fox, A Place Apart (1980), who shared the 1982 Children's Fiction with Thomas. Marked by Fire was one of few paperback originals even among the finalists for paperback awards.


  1. ^ a b c "Joyce Carol Thomas".Tennessee Authors. The University of Tennessee. Archived 2011-01-16. Retrieved 2013-11-24.
  2. ^ "National Book Awards – 1983". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  3. ^ "Coretta Scott King Book Award – All Recipients, 1970–Present". American Library Association (ALA).
      "About the Coretta Scott King Book Awards". ALA. Retrieved 2013-11-24.
  4. ^ "Prize-winning author Joyce Carol Thomas dead at 78". Retrieved 21 August 2016.

External links[edit]