Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Alexis Gumbs

Photo by Sufia Ikbal-Doucet


Alexis Pauline Gumbs is the author of Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals, Dub: Finding Ceremony, M Archive: After the End of the World, and Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity, and co-editor of Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines. In 2020, she was awarded the National Humanities Center Fellowship for her book-in-progress, The Eternal Life of Audre Lorde: A Cosmic Biography.

“Whoever said you were from another planet was right,” my mentor M. Jacqui Alexander told me, laughing on the phone after reading a manuscript I sent her inspired by her own body of work.  Mentors, colleagues, even marketing professionals struggle to categorize my work.  All of the books I have written so far defy genre.  And I know that when your work transforms form you can’t expect recognition.  My work as a writer so far has been instead to remind my communities how familiar they are with the unrecognizable.  I’m disloyal to form.  For that reason, I’ve stopped expecting my work to show up on standard lists or to win annual awards that lift up an exemplary work in a particular literary category.  And so, I have applied to the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in prose years and in poetry years.  Just in case. For me, the support of the NEA at this point in my career may not mean that I have finally created something recognizable.  But it does connect me to the legacy of those literary workers whose brave experiments have made my work and life possible.  I dedicate my celebration of this award to those workers, including and especially the LGBTQ artists of color whose selection for this award terrified proponents of censorship in the arts.  Towards a world far beyond what we can imagine.