J. California Cooper was an award-winning prolific playwright and author who crafted tales about ordinary individuals living out their dreams. Ms. Cooper died last Saturday, leaving behind a valuable collection of work that readers are still discovering.
Cooper was born in 1932 and spent much of her life in California.Not much has been written about her early life, and all historical entries on her solely focus on her work as a playwright and writer.
Cooper wrote 17 plays in her career, winning the Black Playwright Of The Year Award in 1978. It was via one of her plays that she crossed paths with Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Alice Walker and switched gears in her career.
At Walker’s urging, after she attended Cooper’s play, she began penning short stories and novels because Walker suggested that it was a far more lucrative financial path.
The first of Cooper’s books, a collection of short stories titled “A Piece Of Mine,” debuted in 1984. Her next short story collection, “Homemade Love,” was published in 1986 and won an American Book Award in 1989. Cooper released her first novel, “Family,” in 1991 to glowing reviews. In total, Cooper wrote and published 12 books, and was a contributing writer for another collection.
In a detailed 2001 video interview at Philadelphia’s Art Sanctuary, Cooper revealed more of herself. During the chat Cooper said, “The thing I am the proudest about myself is that in my stories, I was not afraid or ashamed to talk about God. Because many people don’t want you to. I wasn’t trying to be too bold, it’s just that I love him.”
In recent times, Cooper made Seattle, Washington her home. According to her daughter, Paris Williams, Cooper suffered a series of heart attacks in her later years. She died quietly at home at home with her daughter. Cooper was 82.