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Cliff, Michelle (b. 1946)  
page: 1  2  

She joins a small group of revolutionaries, to whom she gives her late grandmother's farm, an important gesture because the ownership of land is strongly associated with the privileged class. In the end, however, Clare can never find the place she seeks because Jamaican society cannot accept the light-skinned woman's embrace of her black heritage. Only in death does she transcend the question of race: her bones and those of her ancestors will reveal nothing about their skin.

In No Telephone to Heaven Cliff addressed homophobia in Jamaica by including a queer character, Harry/Harriet, a man who wants to be a woman and who loves women. Cliff stated that she "wanted to portray a character who would be the most despised character in Jamaica and show how heroic he is." She added that "he really loves his people. He is there helping, yet if they knew what he really was, they would kill him." He has endured the horrors of the subjugated, including rape, and yet he has managed to achieve what Clare never could, creating and claiming his own identity. Cliff called him "the most complete character in the book."

Cliff's third novel, Free Enterprise (1993), is a fictionalized tale of the life of Mary Ellen Pleasant, an abolitionist who supported John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry. The novel emphasizes the role of women who acted courageously to oppose the slave trade.

In her latest book, The Store of a Million Items (1998), Cliff returns to the format of short stories. Reviewer Lisa S. Nussbaum commented that they "read very nearly like parables without being preachy or moralistic in tone" and that "Cliff reaffirms the basic human dignity of each of her characters as she celebrates their fierce independence."

Cliff has taught literature and creative writing at a number of colleges, including the New School for Social Research, Stanford University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the University of California at Santa Cruz. She is a frequent contributor to many publications, including Ms. and The Village Voice, and often lectures on the subjects of racial and heterosexist prejudice.

Cliff and Rich make their home in Santa Cruz, California.

Linda Rapp

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Adisa, Opal Palmer. "Journey into Speech: A Writer between Two Worlds." African American Review 28.2 (Summer 1994): 273-281.

Hayes, Loie, and Tacie Dejanikus. "Claiming an Identity: An Interview with Michelle Cliff." off our backs 11.6 (June 30, 1981): 18.

Nussbaum, Lisa S. "The Store of a Million Items." Library Journal 123.7 (April 15, 1983): 117.

Schwartz, Meryl F. "An Interview with Michelle Cliff." Contemporary Literature 34.4 (Winter 1993): 594-619.

Toland-Dix, Shirley. "Re-negotiating Racial Identity : The Challenge of Migration in Michelle Cliff's No Telephone to Heaven." Studies in the Literary Imagination 37.2 (Fall 2004): 37-52.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Cliff, Michelle  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2006  
    Date Last Updated August 1, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2006, glbtq, Inc.  


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