Celebrated Writer J. California Cooper Dies At 82
J. California Cooper, 82, died peacefully in Seattle, Washington, on September 20th, with daughter Paris Williams by her side, reports Ebony.
Born in Berkley, California, Cooper was best known for her short stories and plays including Strangers. In 1978 she won a Black Playwright Award for that particular play. In all, Cooper authored six short story collections including A Piece of Mine, Homemade Love (winner of the 1989 American Book Award), Some Soul to Keep, The Matter is Life, Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime, and Wild Stars Seeking Midnight Suns. And her short story Funny Valentine was turned into a 1999 TV movie.
Cooper, originally a playwright, started writing short stores at the suggestion of Alice Walker, who told her short stories “were an easier path to a paycheck,” reports ABC News.
Cooper and Walker met after the Pulitzer Prize winner attended one of her plays.
“Her advice to my mother was you should write short stories or novels because it was easier to get paid. She went home and wrote 12 stories,” Williams said.
The relationship between the two writers grew. “When Cooper asked Walker to write an introduction to her first story collection, the writer who had just been honored for The Color Purple asked to publish the book at her own publishing house. Walker also helped Cooper get one of her stories published in Essence magazine and the book took off from there,” Williams told ABC News.
According to her daughter, Cooper worked a variety of jobs from a teamster on the Alaska pipeline to an escrow officer and a manicurist to pay the bills.
“My mother tried a lot of things when I was growing up,” she said. “Writing was something she always did. She just stuck them in a drawer.”
She died following a series of heart attacks over the past few years. Cooper moved from California to Seattle in 2013.