Alexis Deveaux

(b. 1948)

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(b. 1948), poet, playwright, novelist, short fiction writer, editor, lecturer, performer, educator, activist, and prize-winning essayist and author of children's stories.

Born 24 September 1948 in New York City to Richard Hill and Mae De Veaux, Alexis De Veaux received a BA from Empire State College in 1976. She earned both an MA (1989) and a PhD (1992) at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

An internationally recognized author, De Veaux has published her work in English, Spanish, Japanese, Serbo-Croatian, and Dutch. She has lectured and performed across the United States, as well as abroad in Kenya (1985 NGO Forum, Nairobi), Holland (Melkweg International Women's Festival, Amsterdam), Cuba (UNEAC Writers Union, Havana), and Japan (Tokyo Joshi Women's University, Tokyo; Black Studies Association, Osaka). Her published works include six books (Na-Ni, 1973; Spirits in the Street, 1973; Don’t Explain: A Song of Billie Holiday, 1980; Blue Heat: Poems and Drawings, 1985; An Enchanted Hair Tale, 1987; and The Woolu Hat, 1995) and five short stories (“Remember Him A Outlaw,” 1972; “The Riddles of Egypt Brown-stone,” 1980, rpt. 1990; “All Shut Eyes Ain’t Closed, All Goodbyes Ain’t Gone,” 1983; “Adventures of the Dread Sisters,” 1991; and “The Ethical Vegetarian,” 1995). In addition De Veaux has published dozens of articles and essays on various subjects, including “Jayne Cortez, Revolutionary Mouth on Paper” (Essence, 1978) and “SisterLove” (Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing, 1995). One of her plays, “The Tapestry” (1986), is included in the anthology Nine Plays by Black Women Playwrights. Others have been produced Off-Broadway and in regional theaters across the country, and one play, “Circles” (1972), was produced at KCET-TV, California (1976).

New York City is the setting for a number of De Veaux's works, but the cultural mood is an amalgam of African rhythm and everyday Western urban drama. Readers experience her stories through a lens induced by the author's lived experience as an urban African American woman. The novel Spirits in the Street is a young Harlemite insider's poetic reminiscence expressing a range of emotions from outrage over Vietnam- and Nixon-era events to a joyous embracing of that part of the self which is of African origin. Centered on Harlem's 114th Street, the novel recalls school desegregation, police brutality, outrage over the incarceration of Angela Davis, and city streets filled with peddlers, hookers, and hustlers. Na-Ni, De Veaux's award-winning, illustrated children's story, presents a child's eye view of evil forces at work within the African American community and is set within the block of 133rd Street between Lenox and Seventh avenues. Don’t Explain is a straightforward if somewhat unusual biography of singer Billie Holiday. Lady Day's Harlem-centered life comes packaged like a jazzy blues love song expressing the singer's passions, frustrations, pain, and joy as if experienced firsthand by its author.

An artist-activist, De Veaux's life exemplifies a progression from a concern with the development of a positive personal identity to the expression of a global vision of peaceful coexistence and freedom from the tyranny of oppression in its various manifestations. Her activism is a practical application of the theories embodied in her creative and expository writing and is demonstrative of a life that extends far beyond the confines of the welfare years of her own youth echoed in Na-Ni. De Veaux's involvement in projects like “Motherlands: From Manhattan to Managua to Africa, Hand to Hand,” a video documentary (1986), underscores her commitment to assume a part of the responsibility for healing a worldwide human community suffering from centuries of cultural conflict.


Subjects: Literature.

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