Wanda Coleman

Softcover, 320 pages
ISBN 1-57423-200-2

The Riot Inside Me: More Trials and Tremors
essays by Wanda Coleman

Click here for an online preview of The Riot Inside Me

Coleman is best known for her “warrior voice.” [But her] voice too can weep elegiac, summoning memories of childhood’s neighborhoods – her South L.A.’s wild-frond palms, the smog-smear of pre-ecology consciousness. Her voice hits notes as desperate as Billie Holiday’s tours of sorrow’s more desolate stretches. But it can also land a wily punch line as solid as that of a stand-up comic.
– Los Angeles Times

In this, her second collection of nonfiction prose,
Wanda Coleman continues the project she began in Native in a Strange Land (1996), a project she once described as “a tour through the restless emotional topography of Los Angeles as glimpsed through scattered fragments of my living memory.” It is a sometimes antic tour, with unforgettable commentary – Coleman’s “intermittent outcries, moans, shouts, and jubilations along the route.”

The Riot Inside Me once again finds the author at the bloody crossroads where art & politics, the personal & the political, and L.A. & the larger world meet and trade blows before resuming their separate paths. The 26 pieces gathered here – a “hopscotch” of essays, memoirs, interviews, and reports – are divided into four sections. One collects autobiographical pieces, including a haunting memoir of her first husband, a moth drawn to the flames of the more extreme forms of ’60s radicalism. Another section is reserved for polemics, mainly issues of Black & White; a third collects Coleman’s now famous “bad” review of Maya Angelou’s Song Flung Up to Heaven – “the most controversial piece I’ve yet written” – and a caustically funny report on its fallout. The book concludes with a group of essays on race, class, and poetry, pieces that one critic called “sardonic when it comes to politics and groups [but] tender and hopeful when it comes to individuals.”

“Satire and journalism are alive and well in L.A.,” says Publishers Weekly, “at least when Coleman is doing the biting and the reporting.” So is art, and so, of course, is truth.


Softcover, 276 pages
ISBN: 1-57423-153-7
2001, $18.95

Hardcover, 276 pages
ISBN: 1-57423-154-5
2001, $31.95


poems by Wanda Coleman

Finalist for the 2001 National Book Award in Poetry

Wanda Coleman’s poetry stings, stains, and ultimately helps heal wounds like the old-fashioned Mercurochrome of her title. No easy remedy for the lacerating American concerns of racism and gender bias, Coleman’s poetry transforms pain into empathy.... These searing, soaring poems challenge us to repair the fractures of human difference, and feel what it is to be made whole again.
—The National Book Award Poetry Judges 2001, Stanley Plumly, Chair


Softcover, 408 pages
ISBN: 1-57423-094-8
1999 $17.95

Mambo Hips & Make Believe
a novel by Wanda Coleman

Although deep friendship between women seems to be nearly a cliché in fiction, Wanda Coleman has managed to capture it in a fresh way . . . Her narrator, Tamala, is a white girl from the suburbs who recognizes Erlene, an African American, as a soulmate in a confusing world of racial identity, romantic travails, and spiritual bankruptcy. These friends suffer together through indignity, discrimination, abuse, [and] breathless highs and lows. They are not always heroes ... but they attempt to live their beliefs and honor their friendship as best they can, making them two of the most believable characters you’d ever wish to have as real friends.
—Rain Taxi

Softcover, 292 pages
ISBN: 1-57423-064-6
1998 $16.95

Hardcover, 292 pages
ISBN 1-57423-065-4
1998 $29.95

Bathwater Wine
poems by Wanda Coleman

Winner of the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize

[Coleman] is a poet whose angry and extravagant music, so far beyond baroque, has been making itself heard across the divide between West Coast and East, establishment and margins, slams and seminars, across the too-American rift among races and genders, for two decades. [She] excels in public performance ... but her poems do not require [her] physical presence: they perform themselves. —Marilyn Hacker
Wanda Coleman, poet, storyteller, journalist, and “High Priestess of Word," lives in Los Angeles.


Softcover, 296 pages
ISBN: 1-57423-022-0
1996, $16.95



Native in a Strange Land: Trials & Tremors
essays by Wanda Coleman

In this collection of articles, essays, interviews and columns, Wanda Coleman, Los Angeles' noted satirist, poet, and journalist, recounts three decades of the growth of her city and of herself. Gleaned from the Los Angeles Times, L.A. Weekly, The Free Press and other publications, Ms. Coleman says that these pieces offer "a tour through the restless emotional topography of Los Angeles as glimpsed through the scattered fragments of my living memory."

We find the author, who is African-American, laboring as waitress, bartender, editor of a sleazy men's magazine; caught up in militant revolutionary politics; and witnessing even more violent social upheaval in the form of the Watts and Rodney King riots.

While Coleman's life has been one of unique accomplishment, Publisher's Weekly notes, "Her extraordinary eye for detail and personal perspective universalizes her experience and makes her observations both trenchant and reliable." In short, this book is a must-read for any student of the American condition.  


Softcover, 280 pages
ISBN: 0-87685-896-5
1993 $15.95

Hardcover,  280 pages
ISBN: 0-87685-897-3


Hand Dance
poems and prose by Wanda Coleman

The poems and prose of Coleman's sixth book, Hand Dance, show a wry political awareness ("inside this poor person is a rich one / struggling to come out"), a streetwise knowledge of what it means to be black in urban American ("in the world i come from / violence is a language and a bullet / sudden insight"), as well as a heady sensuality.

Coleman's poems are an act of liberation, meant to be experienced as something almost physical, like a punch or a whipping . . . She wants her language to express anger, to incite anger, and to shake all those who read it out of their complacency. — The Nation


Softcover, 332 pages
ISBN: 0-87685-812-4
1990 $15.95


African Sleeping Sickness: Stories & Poems
by Wanda Coleman

Coleman is one of the decade's most moral poets, showing us in feverishly focused first- and third-person dramatic monologues the grim life of L.A.'s streets. It's impossible to paraphrase her colloquial, dynamic style: "where I live / the little gangsters diddy-bop through and pick up /  young bitches and flirt with old ones, looking to / snatch somebody's purse or find their way into somebody's / snatch 'cause mama don't want them at home and papa / is a figment and them farms them farms them farms / they call schools, and mudflapped bushy-headed entities / swoop the avenue seeking death / it's the only thrill left / where I live." Understanding does not mean, to Coleman, mild forgiveness, it means hot rage against those of any color who prey on others in pain. Contextualizing murder, rape, poverty, addiction—showing us their human faces—gives Coleman a 'shattered heart,' makes her feel 'thrown heart first into this ruin,' but the experience transforms the reader.
—Pat Monaghan, Booklist


Softcover, 200 pages
ISBN: 0-87685-735-7
1988 $16.95

Hardcover, 200 pages
ISBN: 0-87685-736-5


A War of Eyes and Other Stories
by Wanda Coleman

"In this extraordinary collection of short stories, Wanda Coleman, a poet who grew up in the Watts area of Los Angeles, turns a baleful eye on lives that "mainstream" America wishes would somehow go away: She chronicles the not-so-quiet desperation of the poor and black urban dweller and gives voice to their unending struggle to keep afloat in a hard-scrabble environment circumscribed by racism and poverty.

With surgical precision, she cuts through the many-layered myths and mysteries that make up the American Dream and lays open the lives of the underclass . . . She plunges in deeply and plucks from this subterranean stream a record of pain and the humor and grace necessary for survival. . . .

[T]hese are extraordinary stories, told in a powerful voice. This is the painful reality of the powerlessness that is too often shrouded in bureaucratic anonymity—a probation number, a welfare case number. Coleman, with her fine poet's eye and strong intense language, brings to life their somber existences.
—Los Angeles Times Book Review, front page


Softcover, 224 pages
ISBN: 0-87685-701-2
1987 $16.95


Heavy Daughter Blues
stories and poems by Wanda Coleman

Poet Wanda Coleman here provides a how-to manual, revealing some immediate ways not only to "fix a bad man hex" or "do dirty better," but to keep one's dream-light burning amid the aching rush of dark and anxious times.

These poems and stories reflect the daily struggles of a poet-performer whose fight to survive is "plagued by the fear of not making it" ("Trying To Get In"). Poverty is an ever-present set of "claws" to grapple with, and in Coleman's realistically-apprehended present there's no way to beat the Man at his own game: "it's high noon / the sheriff is an IBM executive / it shoots 120 words per secretary / i reach for the white-out / it's too fast for me / i'm blown to blazes" ("Job Hunter"). Passion and desire yield insights, also betrayals: "yes i do think of you / when i'm with him / even laugh out loud / remembering our summer's fun / how it might be fun again / still, something in his eyes / i do not see in yours" ("Four Men").


Softcover, 200 pages
ISBN: 0-87685-509-5
1983 $14.95


poems by Wanda Coleman

Hard, brilliant strokes shot through with street music in this sixth book by Los Angeles poet and short story writer Coleman.

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