Minnie Bruce Pratt

About Minnie Bruce

Minnie Bruce Pratt was born September 12, 1946, in Selma, Alabama, in the hospital closest to her hometown of Centreville. She graduated from Bibb County High School when it was under segregation, and entered the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa a year after George Wallace “stood in the schoolhouse door.” She received her B.A there, where she was also Phi Beta Kappa. She took her Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  In addition to this academic education, she received her education into the great liberation struggles of the 20th century through grass-roots organizing with women in the army-base town of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and through teaching at historically Black universities.

The author Minnie Bruce Pratt smiling wide and holding her arms up in a celebratory gesture with sheets of paper in one hand
Minnie Bruce Pratt at Take Back the Night March, Syracuse, N.Y., 2008.
Photo: Rachel Fus © 2008

For five years she was a member of the editorial collective of Feminary: A Feminist Journal for the South, Emphasizing Lesbian Visions.  Together with Elly Bulkin and Barbara Smith, she co-authored Yours In Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives On Anti-Semitism and Racism, chosen in 2004 as one of the 100 Best Lesbian and Gay Nonfiction Books of all time by the Publishing Triangle.

She has published eight books of poetry, The Sound of One Fork, We Say We Love Each Other, Crime Against Nature, Walking Back Up Depot Street, The Money Machine, The Dirt She Ate: Selected and New Poems, Inside the Money Machine, and Magnified.

Cover of 1990 book Crime Against Nature by Minnie Bruce Pratt

In 1989, Crime Against Nature, on Pratt’s relationship to her two sons as a lesbian mother, was chosen as the Lamont Poetry Selection by the Academy of American Poets, an annual award given for the best second full-length book of poetry by a U.S. author. The judges said of the book, “Pratt tells a moving story of loss and recuperation, discovering linkages between her own disenfranchisement and the condition of other minorities.  She makes it plain, in this masterful sequence of poems, that the real crime against nature is violence and oppression.”  In 1991 Crime Against Nature was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and given the American Library Association Gay and Lesbian Book Award for Literature. That year Pratt, along with lesbian writers Chrystos and Audre Lorde, received a Lillian Hellman-Dashiell Hammett award given by the Fund for Free Expression to writers “who have been victimized by political persecution.” These three writers were selected because of their experience “as a target of right-wing and fundamentalist forces during the recent attacks on the National Endowment for the Arts.” 

Covers of Rebellion Essays 1980-1991 and S/HE by Minnie Bruce Pratt

In 1992 her book of autobiographical and political essays, Rebellion: Essays 1980-1991, was a Finalist in Non-Fiction for the Lambda Literary Awards. This volume includes her feminist classic, the essay “Identity: Skin Blood Heart,” adopted for teaching use in hundreds of college courses and community groups.

Her book of prose stories about gender-boundary-crossing, S/HE, was a finalist in Non-Fiction for the 1995 American Library Association Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Book Award. In these lyrical vignettes, Pratt writes about the many ways to be girl, boy, man, woman, and those of us in-between. S/HE explores the inconsistencies, the infinities, the fluidity of sex and gender.

Cover of Walking Back Up Depot Street by Minnie Bruce Pratt

Pratt’s Walking Back Up Depot Street (University of Pittsburgh Poetry Series) is a dramatically multi-vocal story of the segregated rural South and a white woman named Beatrice who is leaving that home for the postindustrial North. ForeWord: the Magazine of Independent Bookstores and Booksellers said of these poems, “This is an exceptional collection in every way: broad in subject, skilled in craft, diverse in its population and conscious of the tragic world….Pratt has created a Beatrice as momentous as Dante’s.” Walking Back Up Depot Street was chosen by ForeWord as Best Lesbian/Gay Book of the Year.

Cover of The Dirt She Ate by Minnie Bruce Pratt

Pratt’s selected poems, The Dirt She Ate (University of Pittsburgh Poetry Series), received the 2003 Lambda Literary Award for Poetry. This volume contains poems described by the New York Times Book Review as “original, startling,” and by Publishers Weekly as “hard-edged and provocative” dealing “directly and explicitly with issues of anger, shame, sexuality, and injustice.” Reviewer Joy Parks in Gay Content Link says, “If you read only one book of poetry this year, The Dirt She Ate should be it.” Work from this book received the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Cover of Inside the Money Machine by Minnie Bruce Pratt

Pratt’s Inside the Money Machine (Carolina Wren Press), has been described as “stunning anti-capitalist poetics in action” and as “the voices of our selves crying out.” These fresh, gritty and passionate poems are about the people who survive and resist inside “the money machine” of 21st-century capitalism—those who’ve looked for work and not found it, who’ve held a job but wanted more out of life, who believe a better world is still possible. Inside the Money Machine was chosen for the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry in 2011.

Pratt’s most recent book, Magnified, was released by the Wesleyan Poetry Series in 2021, in the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic. These poems are praised as “a profoundly intimate record of personal sorrow as well as ‘poetry to action’—in its resistance against empire’s economic and military destruction” and as “a fearless relation with lost beloveds that is gorgeous, queer and fiercely alive.”

Since coming into women’s liberation, and coming out as a lesbian in 1975 in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Pratt has been active in organizing that intersects women’s and gender issues, LGBTQ+ issues, anti-racist work, and anti-imperialist initiatives. She co-edited the anthology Feminism and War: Confronting U.S. Imperialism, with Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Robin Riley (Zed, 2008). Her interview on life as an activist-writer is included in the anthology Feminist Freedom Warriors, along with those of Angela Davis, Margo Okazawa-Ray, Barbara Ransby and others (Haymarket, 2018). She is a member of the National Writers Union and works with the International Action Center and its Women’s Fightback Network. She is a managing editor of Workers World/Mundo Obrero newspaper.

After 45 years of adjunct teaching and several stints of standing in the unemployment line, she ended her teaching life within the education system as an on-contract Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies and Writing & Rhetoric at Syracuse University, where she also served as faculty for a developing Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Studies Program.

She divides her residence between her childhood home in Centreville, Alabama, and her current home in Syracuse, New York.

Minnie Bruce Pratt from the shoulders up standing in front of a colorful quilt
Minnie Bruce Pratt, Syracuse, N.Y.
Photo: Leslie Feinberg © 2012

High-res images for download

Minnie Bruce Pratt smiling at camera wearing a white shawl with Leslie Feinberg blurred in the background
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Photo: Marilyn Humphries @ 2003
Close-up of Minnie Bruce Pratt looking out over glasses frame
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Photo: Leslie Feinberg @ 2005
Minnie Bruce Pratt standing before colorful dragon image
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Photo: Leslie Feinberg @ 2009
Portrait of Minnie Bruce Pratt in front of colorful, hanging quilt
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Photo: Leslie Feinberg @ 2012
Minnie Bruce Pratt smiling widely with arms extended upward, holding papers in one hand
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Photo: Rachel Fus @ 2008

Short Bio

Born in Selma and raised in Centreville, Alabama, Minnie Bruce Pratt came out as a lesbian in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1975. She received her B.A. from the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa the year after segregationist Gov. George Wallace “stood in the schoolhouse door”–and her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1979. Her books and poems have received awards from the Academy of American Poets, the American Library Association, the Poetry Society of America, Lambda Literary and the Publishing Triangle. Her second book, Crime Against Nature, about losing custody of her children as a lesbian mother, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. An anti-racist, anti-imperialist women’s liberation activist, Pratt co-authored Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism (1984) with Barbara Smith and Elly Bulkin. Her essay from that volume, “Identity: Skin Blood Heart,” has been adopted in hundreds of college classrooms as a teaching model for diversity issues. Along with lesbian writers Chrystos and Audre Lorde, she received the Lillian Hellman-Dashiell Hammett Award given by the Fund for Free Expression to writers “who have been victimized by political persecution.” She is a managing editor of Workers World/Mundo Obrero newspaper, and lives in her hometown in Alabama and in Central New York. Her most recent book is Magnified (Wesleyan, March 2021), dedicated to her partner and spouse, Leslie Feinberg, trans activist and theoretician.

Critical Studies

Printable selection of Minnie Bruce Pratt Critical Studies