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Patricia Jabbeh Wesley Table



Books by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Before the Palm Could Bloom  /  Becoming Ebony / The River Is Rising / Where the Road Turns

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Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, born in Tugbakeh (Maryland County, Liberia) and grew up in Monrovia, is the author of Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa, which retells her experiences in the Liberian civil war. Her second book of poems is Becoming Ebony. 

She attended the prestigious College of West Africa (CWA), a United Methodist High School which was founded in 1839. Her college days were marked by Liberia’s political unrest in the late 1970s, which resulted in the country's first military coup in 1980. 

Prior to the Liberian civil war, Wesley was awarded a World Bank Fellowship to do graduate studies at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN, where she obtained a Master of Science degree in English Education. After completion of her studies, she returned with her family to Liberia. 

She and her family became caught up in the Liberian civil war when rebels overran Monrovia in 1990. They were forced to flee their home in Congo Town, a suburb near Monrovia, and lived in the Charles Taylor held territory where they experienced the torture that classified Taylor's warfare. She and her family thereafter  immigrated to the United States in 1991, having lost possessions and family during the continuing Liberian civil war. 

She has taught English and Literature classes at the University of Liberia in Liberia, and at a few American universities and colleges. Her first book of poems, Before The Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa (New Issues Press, 1998) successfully captures some of her war experiences. Wesley writes poems of the Liberian civil war and of the devastation  it has wrought. And in poems of village life and customs, the city of Monrovia, the rites of childhood and adolescence, Wesley records for the reader a world that has been forever changed. Wesley's poems incorporate many African voices, and range in tone from sorrow and longing, to humor and ironic wit.

Her second book of poems, Becoming Ebony, (second place winner of the Crab Orchard Award Series 2nd book open competition) has just been released from Southern Illinois University Press. 

Four years ago she returned to school upon the publication of her first book of poems in 1998, and completed a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing in June 2002. Her work has appeared in The Cortland Review, Crab Orchard Review, Midday Moon, and New Orleans Review.

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English
Penn State University Altoona
3000 Ivyside Drive
125 Misciagna Family Center for Performing Arts
Altoona, PA 16601-3760

Professional Website:
or :
Professional Blog:

She lives with her husband, Mlen-Too, and their four (often) adorable children.

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As a little girl, I used to wonder why the Grebo, Kru & Krahn word to describe God, the sovereign one or the creator is "Nyesuah, Nesuah, Nyonsua, etc." which means "human thirst" or the one we thirst after." I got to know that later. This is because in my own life, I have discovered that if I want to beat my enemies, fight prejudice & discrimination, win, overcome or when friends, loved ones, family or even workmates fail me, I turn to that source the Grebo call "Nyesuah." That's my spirituality for you, my Jesus, my King, my powerful, dependable source, the one I thirst after even in the midst of what humans call "success." That's my power!.—Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

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Patricia Jabbeh Wesley—Liberia (video) / Writers Talk featuring Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (video)

A Reading by Poet Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

The image-concrete & abstract (imagery), the line (structure), tone & language (figures of speech, particularly, the metaphor in all its powerful forms) are four of the most important/basic elements of a poem. There is however, no disputing of the power of the concrete image in transporting the feelings & language of a poem from poet to audience, from speaker to reader. To a poet, image is as important as canvas is to an artist. The powerful image in its most concreteness takes a poem off the page to the mind's eye of the reader. This is why we laugh & cry & scream and jump when a good poem is read, & let's be clear, that image must be fresh, new, and relevant to the poem. Unless you know how important these are, the writing of a poem is as difficult as cutting steel.

I was quite surprised, but very honored when at the end of my first workshop experience, one of the students, a woman probably over 70 yrs old exclaimed: "Wow, you just make it so easy for us to open up, to be ourselves and write about everything. You free & empower us. You ARE our liberator from Africa!" She was too genuine for me not to get up and give her a hug. Glad it turned out well today. Tomorrow is my big day: 8:30-10:30 teaching & in-class discussion of participants' poems written in class today & my 12:15 solo brown bag lecture on "Writing as a Tool in Healing."

Today is a busy day: Done with my early morning teaching, now, I have lunch with the Director, then my solo talk on "Writing as a Tool in Healing: A Living Experience." Hope I don't disappoint them since I never really talk point to point from my outline, hahaha, terrible with scripts, guys, so forgive me. In the past, I've not done bad, and since I never get nervous about any talks or readings, I should be okay, don't you think?—Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

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I got a surprise invitation to visit the President of Liberia, Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at her office today at 5 pm., so you can imagine how excited I was to see her & tell her about Poetry Parnassus London 2012 & my representation of Liberia. It was an inspirational discussion during which we talked about teaching more Liberian literature in Liberian schools.

After a few minutes I asked if the President would allow my son, Mlen-Too II (MT), who was waiting in another room, to come in & see her in person even though he was not scheduled to, and she was so gracious to allow MT. Then Mr. MT came in and stole my entire show. She loved him to bits & was so excited to talk about his computer software skills, but of course, I couldn't be more proud.

When I told her I'd be back next year, she said, "When you do, I'll like to see you again." What a day!—Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

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Explosives in my luggage? Read this. I departed London Heathrow, my first time in the UK with a sour heart, hurt by the treatment at the border security. I had mistakenly left juice in my overnight, so they held me in line for 40 mins. while their uniformed girls slowly, & I mean slowly checked each passenger, 1st come, 1st served, six people before me. No black person was in that line and no one was given extra inspection. When my turn came, the black girl checking turned over to an Asian girl, who checked me for 20 mins. then called the head security. He came & told me that I had explosive in my luggage, to my shock.

I, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, a war survivor, with explosives, so they needed my passport, which they took, intending to disgrace me before everyone with questioning about my reason for coming into their country. So I told them that I would not answer any questions unless they did their investigation in a private room. They then led me there, all my medicines, my personal things scattered in their bins. They held me there, not even a chair to sit on, until this security guy went up and down, checking all the data to prove I had explosives.

He finally discovered after an hour more, my plane nearly ready to depart, checking my records with the US. Each time he found me clear, he picked on another aspect. The Asian girl who had started the stupidity in the first place was now complaining about what her boss was looking for. I told her, he's looking for the explosives you saw or tested. The two women security were waiting with me, then they began to read three of my books in my luggage, and they began to apologize, talking about, "Oh, she came for the festival." At that moment, I was in tears, standing for more than an hour, never seen anything like this in the US, unqualified people, they were. Their chief came back and said,

"She's totally clear. She is no risk, no explosives, but why did you say she had explosives again?" The Asian girl said, it was the juice and she drank it there. Wow, they tried to make up by taking me to my gate, but they had already told me something about the UK. My plane was boarding when I got to my gate even though I was in line 2 hours before boarding. If you're going to the Olympics, be ready for being falsely accused of having "EXPLOSIVES" in your luggage even before they test you.—Patricia Wesley 5 July 2012

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After All the Flame  

Becoming Ebony Reviews 

Finding My Family

In the Beginning 

Monrovia Women 

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement


There's Another New Orleans

What Dirge 

What I Tell My Daughter  

When I Get to Heaven 

Related files

African President Addresses US Congress 

The African World

The Biography of Philip Reid

Blood, Ink, and Oil 

Center of 19th Century Textile History

Choosing Sides 

Colin Powell on Mugabe

Comments on Addae's "ABCs

Deposing Charles Taylor

I, Momolu or Liberia in the Bush  (Lewis)

Liberia: The Willis Knuckles Saga

Nuclear Theatre

Of Obama and Oakland

PaxAmerica in Decline 

Reporting South Africa

Reporting Zimbabwe

Sanctions on Zimbabwe

A Shattered Dream

Trans Africa & Progressives on Mugabe

Transitional Writings on Africa

Willis Knuckles Saga 

WTO Summit in Cancun

Zimbabwe's Lonely Fight for Justice  

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Where the Road Turns

By   Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

In this her fourth volume, I witness Patricia Jabbeh Wesley courageously dipping her pen into her own wound and splashing vivid imagery upon the canvas of her own skin. That is an illusion, for that pen is really a scalpel cutting the gangrenous and the rotten out of her nation's violated flesh. But that too is an illusion. That scalpel is a steel tongue in a powerful Grebo woman's mouth weaving a fine gauze from dirges, love songs, praise songs, fragments of aphoristic wisdom, fables, new myths, narrative and lyrical dialogues in order to bind our own wounded psyches.

Proud Grebo women's voices burst through her mouth to chastise depraved men who harvest babies to stoke diamond wars as they blaze through forests of dry human bones in their imported death chariots. Beyond celebrating these fiery taboo-breaking warrior women who are passionate about peace, justice, their right to forbidden fantasies, she also claims her place, though exiled, in the lineage. Condemned to bear upon her back her home, she is the strong earthen vessel that safeguards the essential spiritual Grebo values bequeathed to her by the village elders in a circle. Because moving is never a leaving, memories of home constantly surge through the poet's wry humor and wit that serve as balm for the ever-nagging pain.

To honor her ancestors' memories Wesley has planted these enduring trees whose fruits must nourish us all if we are willing to avail ourselves of her poetic gifts. These are brave and fearless poems in a harsh dark season, yet necessary for the witness they bear to human folly while insisting on our capacity to love. With each new volume, her voice grows stronger as it blends with those of Ama Ata Aidoo, Alda do Espirito Santo, and Jeni Couzyn. She is without doubt among the most powerful of the younger generation of African poets.—Frank M. Chipasula, editor, Bending the Bow: An Anthology of African Poetry/ co-editor of The Heinemann Book of African Women's Poetry

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The River Is Rising

By Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Wesley writes with clear-eyed lyricism about her ruthless and beleaguered homeland, and the bittersweet relief and loss of the diaspora. Her poems are scintillating and vivid, quickly sketched fables shaped by recollections of childhood playmates, moonlight and ocean surf, hibiscus hedges, and big pots of boiling soup. But these paeans to home blend with percussive visions of falling rockets and murdered children, sharp recollections of hunger and mourning, and a survivor's careful gratitude in a land of cold winds and rationed sunlight, her carefully measured memories and cherished dreams of return. --Booklist

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley's The River is Rising is both brilliant and heartbreaking. Survivor of the brutal Liberian Civil War, Wesley bears witness to a life she lost to that war, and to what it means to be a refugee who has remade herself.... "To every war," she says simply, "There are no winners." .... I am in awe of these beautiful, necessary poems, and the glory and largesse of Wesley s vision. --Cynthia Hogue

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley's poetry is heartfelt, wise, and alive... One senses in her that rare combination of someone who has been deeply schooled in both literature and life, and who has integrated those two into a deeply felt and shrewd worldview.
—Stuart Dybek 

In Patricia Jabbeh Wesley's third collection of poems, the poet writes about being caught between two cultures: her native Liberia and her adopted America. The struggles of the immigrant are contrasted with her memories of the Liberian Civil War.

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Murder in the Cassava Patch

By Bai T. Moore

Based on a true story, Bai T. Moore's Murder in the Cassava Patch is Liberia's best-known novel. Published by Ducor Publishing House (Monrovia) in 1968, it remains required reading for every Liberian high school student, and is widely regarded as the one real Liberian literary classic  in a very small literary tradition. . . . Bai Tamia Johnson Moore (12 October 1916 – 10 January 1988), commonly known by his pen-name, Bai T. Moore, was a Liberian poet, novelist, folklorist and essayist. He also held various cultural, educational and tourism posts both for the Liberian government and for UNESCO, and was the founder of Liberia's National Cultural Center. He is best-known for his novella Murder in the Cassava Patch (1968), the tale of a crime passionel in a traditional Liberian setting.Wikipedia  / Murder in the Cassava Patch (Trailer)

Celebrating Bai T. Moore, The Late Liberian Poet, Writer, Culturalist, and Statesman ((Patricia Wesley)

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (video)

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Pray the Devil Back to Hell

A film directed by Gini Reticker

Pray the Devil Back to Hell is a captivating new film by director Gini Reticker. It exposes a different story angle for the largely forgotten recent events of the women of Liberia uniting to bring the end to their nation's civil war. This film is amazing in the way it captivates your attention from the earliest frames. It doesn't shy away from showing footage of the violent events that took place during the Liberian civil war. But the main story of the film is that of Leymah Gbowee and the other women uniting, despite their religious differences, to force action on the stalled peace talks in their country. Using entirely nonviolent methods, not only are the peace talks successful, but Charles Taylor, the president of Liberia, is forced into exile leading to the first election of a female head of state in Africa. The women of this film are truly an inspiration and no one can fail to be moved by the message of hope that comes through clearly in this film. These are heroes that deserve to be remembered and with Pray the Devil we are able to do that, gaining both a knowledge of the history we are ignorant of through archival footage and an understanding of the leaders of this movement through close-up interviews with the many women who lead it. The film also offers a great soundtrack & inspirational song- "Djoyigbe" by Angelique Kidjo & Blake Leyh.Amazon Reviewer

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Mighty Be Our Powers

How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War

By Leymah Gbowee

As a young woman, Leymah Gbowee was broken by the Liberian civil war, a brutal conflict that tore apart her life and claimed the lives of countless relatives and friends. Years of fighting destroyed her country—and shattered Gbowee’s girlhood hopes and dreams. As a young mother trapped in a nightmare of domestic abuse, she found the courage to turn her bitterness into action, propelled by her realization that it is women who suffer most during conflicts—and that the power of women working together can create an unstoppable force. In 2003, the passionate and charismatic Gbowee helped organize and then led the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, a coalition of Christian and Muslim women who sat in public protest, confronting Liberia’s ruthless president and rebel warlords, and even held a sex strike. With an army of women, Gbowee helped lead her nation to peace—in the process emerging as an international leader who changed history. Mighty Be Our Powers is the gripping chronicle of a journey from hopelessness to empowerment that will touch all who dream of a better world.—Beast Books  / Pray the Devil Back to Hell

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Nobel Peace Prize Winners are Subjects of Prominent PBS BroadcastsThree women—Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, her compatriot Leymah Gbowee, and pro-democracy campaigner Tawakul Karman of Yemen — have been named co-recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for their nonviolent role in promoting peace, democracy, and gender equality. Their remarkable stories are part of public media’s Women and Girls Lead pipeline of documentaries. Public media leaders from ITVS, PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting joined the rising chorus of voices congratulating Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, her co-patriot Leymah Gbowee, and pro-democracy campaigner Tawakul Karman of Yemen, the three women named co-recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Pray the Devil Back to Hell   / Leymah Gbowee Wins 2011 Nobel Peace Prize

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Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

By Derrick Bell

In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school's hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell's fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard's president and all of the school's black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination.

Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell's And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.—Publishers Weekly

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Malcolm X

A Life of Reinvention

By Manning Marable

Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world. Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties

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Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson III

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Wilderson's observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid's last days.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

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W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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update 26 March 2012