Alexis De Veaux was born and raised in Harlem, the product of two merging streams of Black history in New York City –immigrants from the Caribbean on her mother’s side and migrants from North Carolina on her father’s side –who settled in Harlem in the early decades of the 20th century. The second of eight children, that history was embedded in her mother’s view of life: “You got three strikes against you. You poor, you black, and you female.” But Alexis was drawn to the world of words and books, and literature soon became the means by which she re-imagined the world her mother understood.
The social movements of the 1960s, and the Black writers associated with them, had a determining impact. Alexis began to envision the possibilities of living as a writer. In the early 1970s, she joined the writer’s workshop of the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center in Harlem. The workshop was run by the late writer Fred Hudson. Under his guidance she won first place in a national Black fiction writers’ contest (1972); published her first children’s book, Na-ni (1973); and the fictionalized memoir, Spirits in the Street (1973). By the end of the 1970s, Alexis’s reputation as a writer bridged multiple genres: fiction, children’s literature, playwriting and poetry.
In the ensuing decades, the tensions between the Black Arts Movement, an emerging Black feminist movement, and, later, the Third World Gay and Lesbian Liberation Movement, were the backdrop for Alexis’s writing. Her work began to be defined by two critical concerns: making the racial and sexual experiences of Black female characters central to her work, and disrupting boundaries between forms. In 1980 she published Don’t Explain, an award-winning biography of jazz great Billie Holiday, written as a prose poem. As a freelance writer and contributing editor for Essence Magazine in the 1980s, Alexis penned several socially relevant articles, traveling on behalf of the magazine to Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Egypt. Alexis published a second award-winning children’s book, An Enchanted Hair Tale (1987) before moving to Buffalo, where she finished graduate school, earning a doctorate in American Studies in 1992. A project nearly ten years in the making, her biography of Audre Lorde, Warrior Poet (2004) has been the recipient of several awards, including the Gustavus Meyers Outstanding Book Award (2004), the Lambda Literary Award for Biography (2004), the Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award, Nonfiction (2005). She is also the author of Yabo (2014), which according to Jewelle Gomez “…speaks in a powerful and insistent cadence about things we may have forgotten: death, desire, magic and the drum beat of resilience.” Her work is available in English, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese and Serbo-Croatian.
Today, Alexis is a celebrated writer and activist recognized for her lifelong contributions to a number of women’s and literary organizations. She has collaborated with the visual artist Valerie Maynard and poet Kathy Engel on the digital project, “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been Terrorized?”(available on YouTube); and co-founded with Kathy Engel, Lyrical Democracies, a cultural partnership aimed at communities interested in working with poets to enhance existing social projects.Black Women Radicals. Author, @EmeraldFaith
June – August, 2023
June 12th Shelf Life Books, Richmond VA – 7-8.30pm
June 14th Rofhiwa Book Care, Durham NC – TBA
June 16th – 18th. Hobart Festival of Women Writers, Hobart NY 3pm
June 21st BGSQD, New York 6-8pm
June 24th Brooklyn Queer Art Book Fair, Brooklyn NY 3-6pm
July 12th Busboys and Poets, Washington DC 6-7pm
August 5th Charis Books, Atlanta Ga 7.30-pm
A brilliantly crafted voyage of queer, Black possibility.
“[Alexis] said that what she was currently writing was called afiction, something that was coming through her that was not built as a linear story of generated characters, but as a revealed poetics of gathered and ever-changing spirit.… As she sent me the JesusDevil parables she had written to that point, I read them immediately and asked for more. I felt like I had won a literary lottery for my soul. What I got to read, what you are about to read, is a text that I believe will take its place in Black feminist classic creative literature alongside Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters, Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide…When the Rainbow is Enuf, with the spirit mystery of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. And—it is unlike any of these, or anything else I’ve ever read.” —adrienne maree brown, from the foreword
Evocative and experimental, JesusDevil is a nonlinear tale of black life and spiritual expression. Writing in a style she calls “afiction,” Alexis De Veaux expands and moves beyond traditional narrative, following the adventures of Fhill, a black, queer spirit who has taken human form. Neither male nor female, Fhill moves fluidly and disruptively across concepts of identity, passing through the nine “parables” that comprise this text. Examining aspects of what it means to be black and human—from a nonhuman perspective—Fhill’s liminal nature redefines social and literary categories, exploring social constructions of blackness as well as themes of desire, memory, sex, revenge, and more. A daring new work and crowning achievement from a veteran storyteller.” `
“Alexis De Veaux is wholly unique and prone to stunning the breath out of my system….. Forward by adrienne maree brown
PRAISE FOR JESUSDEVIL, THE PARABLES
“In this timely work, Alexis weaves through and beyond the many ways that a parable can live. She speaks of viruses, sheltering in and folks losing their sense of taste in stories where the dead rise, slay, shake themselves loose and rumble us with their sexy. In this afiction, ancient beings from the future take us down and up roads that can only be detailed in a structure that defies naming. Once again, Alexis has written a book of holy queer, new possibilities. Get ready to open, pause, and wonder.”
—Sharon Bridgforth, author of 2003 Lambda Literary Finalist love conjure/blues and recipient of a 2022 Windham Campbell Prize in Drama
“Our ancestral past, present, and future share a concentric relationship in De Veaux’s prophetic, JesusDevil: The Parables. In these after (other) worlds, Black life is autopoietic. Black life recreates, reproduces, and changes shape, sound, and color. JesusDevil arranges and makes meaning and rhythm through erotic exercise and language. These articulations of the sacred are not about orthodox practice; they are “black sermonic text” of the quotidian, an aesthetic of the ordinary. The body, as De Veaux poeticizes, expands language and biology. The bodypussys both itself and other, the body is self and other. De Veaux’s nine parables are vestibules of possibility and proof that the imagination is the genesis of promise.”
—Briona S. Jones, editor of 2021 Lambda Literary Award Winner Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought
“In this utterly authentic, deftly crafted, and creatively courageous book, Alexis De Veaux illustrates how the apex of form, style, and matter are more than the tools to document and journey through individual and collective memory; rather, this trinity of craft must, can, has been and will be reimagined in the ritual of storytelling as a portal of constant creation, not simply a tale told simply to arrive someplace and settle. When Fhill, De Veaux’s central character, says she wants “a big life-changing prize or honor that recognizes all we been through over time,” I thought immediately that JesusDevil: The Parables is that prize. It generously invites readers into a dogged literacy, a rigorous reading practice so that we might be fully awash in the complexity of life in spirit, and spirit in life, presented in all its honesty, love, humor, desire, pleasure, pain, and grace. JesusDevil: The Parables is the fulcrum upon which ancestral listening as a technology of writing otherwise, manifests as both possibility and practice. It is a gift to have this book in this time, and now, for all times.”
—Eric Darnell Pritchard, author of Fashioning Lives: Black Queers and the Politics of Literacy
JesusDevil, the Parables is due for publication in June 12th, 2023 and can be preordered through the publishers, AK Press.