Sherley Anne Williams Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Sherley Anne Williams began her writing career by publishing short stories in periodicals and anthologies. She also wrote literary criticism, which was printed in scholarly journals and collected in her first book, Give Birth to Brightness: A Thematic Study in Neo-Black Literature (1972). Williams published a historical novel, Dessa Rose, in 1986. Her poetry inspired her to create two picture books for children, Working Cotton (1992) and Girls Together (1999). Williams contributed introductions for editions of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1991) and Mark Twain’s The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson (1996).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Sherley Anne Williams’s poetry collection The Peacock Poems was a 1976 National Book Award finalist. In 1984, her literary scholarship secured her an appointment to teach at the University of Ghana as a Fulbright Scholar. The periodical Parents chose Working Cotton as an outstanding 1992 book for young readers. The American Library Association selected Working Cotton as an honor book for both the 1993 Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Medals. In 1998, Williams received the African American Literature and Culture Society’s Stephen E. Henderson Award.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Basu, Biman. “Hybrid Embodiment and an Ethics of Masochism: Nella Laren’s Passing and Sherley Anne Williams’s Dessa Rose.” African American Studies 36, no. 3 (Fall, 2002). Explores the increasing interrogation of racial and cultural boundaries and proliferation of images of hybridity in Williams’s novel.

Carby, Hazel. “Ideologies of Black Folk: The Historical Novel of Slavery.” In Slavery and the Literary Imagination, edited by Deborah McDowell and Arnold Rampersad. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989. Excellent article that examines Dessa Rose’s treatment of history.

Davis, Mary Kemp. “Everybody Knows Her Name: The Recovery of the Past in Dessa Rose.” Callaloo 12, no. 3 (Summer, 1989). Excellent article that examines the novel’s treatment of history.

Goldman, Anne. “‘I Made the Ink’: (Literary) Production and the Reproduction in Dessa Rose and Beloved.” Feminist Studies 16, no. 2 (Summer, 1990). Explores women’s issues.

Henderson, Mae Gwendolyn. “Speaking in Tongues: Dialogics, Dialectics, and the Black Woman Writer’s Literary Tradition.” In Reading Black, Reading Feminist, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Meridian, 1990. Explores women’s issues.

Henderson, Stephen. Understanding the New Black Poetry. New York: Morrow, 1973. Mentions Williams’s work.

Rushdy, Ashraf H. A. “Reading Mammy: The Subject of Relation in Sherley Anne Williams’s Dessa Rose.” African American Review 27, no. 3 (Fall, 1997). Looks at Williams’s depiction of communicative interactions among African Americans and her literary style.

Tate, Claudia. Black Women Writers at Work. New York: Continuum, 1983. Includes an interview with Williams about her poetry.