carmen gillespie

Professor of English

Carmen Gillespie recently finished a poetry manuscript, Jonestown: A Vexation, which was named one of three finalists for the 2009 Lotus Prize. She was 12 when her family returned to the States from Guyana, just months before the infamous 1978 mass deaths in Jonestown, Guyana. This personal connection, together with the 30th anniversary of the tragedy, prompted her to research and reflect on the event through poetry.

Gillespie has written critical reference books about African-American authors Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, and is now working on another book titled Washington, DC and the African American Literary Imagination. It begins with the first African-American novel, written in 1854 by former slave William Wells Brown. Clotel tells a fictionalized story of the daughter of Thomas Jefferson and his slave mistress Sally Hemings. The protagonist commits suicide by jumping into the Potomac River rather than returning to slavery.