The Poetics of Difference

Queer Feminist Forms in the African Diaspora

Black women artists, writers, and performers, and their theories of intersectionality

From Audre Lorde, Ntozake Shange, and Bessie Head, to Zanele Muholi, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Missy Elliott, Black women writers and artists across the African Diaspora have developed nuanced and complex creative forms. Mecca Jamilah Sullivan ventures into the unexplored spaces of black women’s queer creative theorizing to learn its languages and read the textures of its forms. Moving beyond fixed notions, Sullivan points to a space of queer imagination where black women invent new languages, spaces, and genres to speak the many names of difference. Black women’s literary cultures have long theorized the complexities surrounding nation and class, the indeterminacy of gender and race, and the multiple meanings of sexuality. Yet their ideas and work remain obscure in the face of indifference from Western scholarship. 

Innovative and timely, The Poetics of Difference illuminates understudied queer contours of black women’s writing.

"This book is a vital, gorgeous thing. Sullivan's thinking elegantly explores the ways black women writers use genre as a queer practice of difference. The argument here is stunning--transcendently so--and it is not an exaggeration to say that this book will become canonical."--Kevin Quashie, author of Black Aliveness, or A Poetics of Being

"This luminous book lovingly parses the poetics of difference that forms and informs the continued life of black queer feminist thought in many genres. The work is brilliant and bracing."--Jennifer DeVere Brody, author of Punctuation: Art, Politics, and Play


Mecca Jamilah Sullivan is an assistant professor of English at Bryn Mawr and the author of Blue Talk and Love.

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