Dr. Donna L. Clovis has an earned doctorate from Teacher's College, Columbia University in Arts and Humanities. Dr. Clovis has also won two journalism fellowships: the McCloy Fellowship from the American Council on Germany and Harvard University and a Prudential Fellowship from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The McCloy Fellowship resulted in producing documentary work about Holocaust survivors in Germany, now archived in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. She has won a first-place feature-writing award on racial profiling from the National Association of Black Journalists. She is also the Albert Einstein Education Award winner for achievements that produce a significant improved educational environment from the governor of New Jersey.
Dr. Clovis is interested in documentary work and storytelling that comes from this type of journalism. She especially loves talking with older people, to hear about their lives. This is the basis of her story and the synchronicity that occurred as she gathered the information through interviews and researching articles. It is called being in the right place at the right time. Dr. Clovis lives in the Princeton Junction area and loves to travel to other countries to learn more about people and culture. She has worked as a professor of Gender and Race at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City.
“The writing throughout is strong, with frequent use of simile.”
– Kirkus Reviews
Journalist and English professor Clovis, who won an Outstanding Book Award from the National Association of Black Journalists for an earlier book, returns with a poetic work.
A lot goes on at the Firestone Library at Princeton University, and not in the expected way. For starters, there are the “Virtual Library and Librarians,” who are “aware of your every move,” and “the aroma of an herbal tea at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, a racist and segregated place,” suggests upfront that readers will go down a rabbit hole into a world that is at once surrealistic and contemporary. You must “slow life down enough” to understand what you read in a work that brings together Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, chess, and physics. At one point, “you find your body in the quantum field,” or being pulled through a chessboard floor by quantum forces. At another you are in Einstein’s classroom, a “special place” hidden on the Princeton campus. Abrupt surprises are in store as things take ever more surreal turns and readers are reminded that “space and time exist in dual waves and your mind will play tricks on you as you travel.” In addition to that black hole that opens up on a chessboard floor, there’s a reference to the 2022 mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. Readers without a basic grounding in physics and Lewis Carroll may feel lost until the book reveals that there’s a spiritual side to their journey: They must remember that “it is LOVE that allows us to step our way through.” They must also realize that “YOU are an endless blessing in being as ONE with God in synchronicity.”
With fewer than 100 pages, this ambitious work is brief. No sooner has the herbal tea at the Mad Hatter’s party been served than the adventure is just about over. The short length and fierce energy keep everything in sometimes-chaotic motion. All of it relates to “A beacon of light” that “shines through the darkness to comfort YOU called, insight, inspiration, and synchronicity in the flow of energy.” Amid clichés like that “beacon of light,” however, there’s plenty of food for thought in comments such as: “Becoming ONE with the Divine, YOU are transformed by this journey.” Some of the physics terms, like quantum field and quantum space, if essential to the author’s aims, may sail over the heads of nonscientific readers. At best, those terms only nod to science instead of giving a nuanced picture of it, and while the early reference to racism and segregation suggests that the work may be making a statement about them, it isn’t clear what it is. Similarly, the only piece of Einstein’s work that appears in the text (other than an allusion to relativity) is his most obvious equation: e=mc2. Its inclusion adds little to the story and may leave readers feeling that there must be more to be found in poking around Einstein’s classroom. Nevertheless, the book moves with lightning speed, and readers interested in cosmic questions will have a fast-paced opportunity to consider what it means to be “ONE with God in synchronicity.”
A quick if intellectually complex read describes a spiritual journey rooted in Einstein’s Princeton.
Pub Date: June 10, 2022
Page count: 80pp
Review Posted Online: July 5, 2022
In her latest novelette, Clovis guides readers through Black stories.
This second-person narrative places “You,” the reader, in Princeton University’s Firestone Library. You’re there to uncover and reveal Black stories before the librarian “captures” them for herself. The key to this mission is in her spectacles, which you’ll simply need to swipe from her face. Their lenses “can warp time and magnify distant galaxies of thought and experience.” They take you to a special world where language transforms into a visualization of ideas in a space called “the miracle of reading.” Stories connect the past, present, and future. For example, in 2021, Clovis sits in Einstein’s old Princeton classroom, where university housecleaner Carnethia, a Black woman, once studied Einstein’s formulas on boards and spoke to him about his lectures. The author links Black stories to such concepts as space-time and synchronicity, recurring themes in her work. These unique voices, passed from generation to generation, create a “circular field of dream time” where the tales are as infinite as the universe. Like Clovis’ preceding novelette, The Kingfisher(2021), this book is allegorical. Rather than focus on Black stories’ specific content, she centers on the importance of keeping them alive. Mutual understanding, too, plays a significant role; the spectacles the reader wears help Clovis, “the scribe,” see herself in her audience. Despite a largely conceptual story, Clovis weaves in tangible elements, equating heavy breath with a “200-pound gorilla” on the reader’s chest and offering a delightfully literal view of string theory. Moreover, her poetic passages brighten every page: “The synchronicity of ripples of gravitational waves that stretch and squeeze space like an accordion of music pulsating behind the spectacles of magnified time encountering planets, stars, and black holes in opposition.” While this book may end, Clovis assures readers that stories of people’s lives never do.
A short, expressive lesson on preserving and safeguarding Black history.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2021
Page count: 82pp
Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021
An allegorical novelette envisions a fantastical creature as holding the key to freeing Black citizens from prejudice and police brutality.
Written in the second person, this story casts the reader as the protagonist. The reader’s journey begins at Princeton University’s Seventy-Nine Hall, where Kingfisher, “part man and dragon fish-like beast,” is a captive. Releasing his chained wings will allow him to escape, as he’s the ransom for redemption from “perpetual slavery and unjust policing and death by police.” But the reader winds up a prisoner as well in the Hall’s dungeon. With hands restrained, the reader gasps for breath as someone presses a knee on the neck. The reader must first break free with the help of Kingfisher. The creature can also provide the reader guidance, along with the Queen of Mamas’ lullaby, on how to reach the Village of Mothers and earn the key to unlocking Kingfisher’s cage. This sometimes-treacherous adventure demands that the reader brave the Forest of Lynching, brimming with such dangers as police with red sirens and people draped in white sheets carrying burning torches. But once Kingfisher is free, all Black citizens will be, too. Though metaphorical, much of Clovis’ tale is transparent, as it’s clear what the characters and plot turns symbolize. Still, parts are left to interpretation; for example, the author herself seems to be a guide, whispering into the reader/protagonist’s ear to start the journey. While the story hits on topical issues like George Floyd’s death and police discrimination, it also pushes historical transgressions into the foreground, most notably the appalling Tuskegee experiment. Clovis’ lyrical prose, as in her previous books, graces the pages: “The nature of the universe is vibrational in the expression of power in sound, music, and mantra. This key is true freedom and allows us to transcend the level of awareness from which word becomes spiritual power and flesh.”
An engrossing tale of racial intolerance that revels in profundity and hope.
Pub Date: June 1, 2021
Page count: 84pp
Review Posted Online: July 26, 2021
A novelette explores racism and police brutality in a Covid-19 world.
In what Clovis dubs an “experimental narrative” and “a new genre of crime fiction,” a woman seemingly imagines her family living in her dollhouse. In the real world, she spends weeks in Covid-19 quarantine, listening to the “screaming silence” of the empty streets outside. All is apparently well inside the dollhouse, where, as a young girl, the woman enjoys a dinner with her family and later dances with Daddy to a Nat King Cole tune. But happy memories of Daddy, who once owned a successful barbershop, soon give way to somber times. He loses the business and winds up in debt. More ominous scenes follow, including Daddy’s receiving phone calls from an unknown, sinister-voiced individual, culminating in a shocking death. Clovis styles her book as “a diary of moments,” consisting of brief entries that collectively form a stream-of-consciousness narrative. As in her previous work, she clearly and openly discusses topical issues. In this book, she writes about police brutality in America, citing the cases of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd as well as the Black Lives Matter protests around the country. All the while, the Covid-19 pandemic is an overwhelming force isolating everyone—even the dolls in the dollhouse, who wear masks and practice social distancing at a restaurant. Clovis lyrically describes the pandemic’s less conspicuous outcomes, such as masks’ hiding people’s expressions and the “howling” sirens of emergency vehicles puncturing the silence of deserted streets. Her prose, as always, is indelible: “The black in nothingness provides evidence of the things not seen and heard. It is the emptiness when no one speaks at dinner. It is the obscure vacancy in the face staring at the blankness in his eyes. It is the sound of death creeping through the Black community streets during Coronavirus.”
A concisely written, potent assessment of an undeniably troubled nation.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2020
Page count: 80pp
Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020
Clovis’ (Just a Book in the Library, 2019, etc.) latest novel centers on white supremacist ideology in America, seen primarily through the eyes of a black female journalist.
Tanisha is a recent Columbia University grad living in Harlem. As a reporter for “a small local newspaper,” she sometimes writes op-ed pieces. With these, she can express her opinion on such events as a speech by Mark Zuckerberg about free expression, which did not reassure her that Facebook had no “alliance with anti-Black forces.” But another story grabs headlines after a shooting at and bombing of a Harlem Pentecostal church leaves six parishioners dead and five wounded (although the number of injured would later rise to 26). Tanisha discusses the tragedy with her editor and fellow reporters, particularly the crumbled note found at the scene that says: “Please forgive me.” This makes the third crime in the same neighborhood with a similar note left behind; in each case, the victim(s) have been black. Tanisha soon determines that the killer’s notes of forgiveness are seeking justification for “White violence”—and that further brutal acts are planned. Equally unnerving is that Tanisha, who continually spots the same person at the subway, believes someone is stalking her. She and her colleagues, though cautious, search for evidence that might point to a murderer. This book, like Clovis’ earlier work, is steeped in frank social commentary. Zeroing in on the political ideology of white supremacy, it deals intelligently with real-life occurrences, ranging from police shootings and the arrests of innocent black people to President Donald Trump’s brazenly comparing his impeachment to a lynching. Clovis’ prose is expressive and unequivocal, as when she writes of a student: “Seven White campus cops forcibly removed her Brown body handcuffed behind her back, wrangling violently like a caterpillar from the front door of the building at American University in Washington.” Tanisha’s story, along with the likable, savvy protagonist, presents flashes of the killer’s unnerving narrative perspective. Most readers will predict a later twist, but it doesn’t diminish the impact of the racial crimes in this novel.
A novel with a real-world setting explores the disturbing consequences of racial intolerance.
Pub Date: June 15, 2020
Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020
This sixth installment of a series discusses literature as a means of sharing stories to experience—and learn from—history.
Throughout her series, Clovis (Falling Bedrooms, 2019, etc.) has addressed the notion of synchronicity, which is akin to Jung’s collective unconscious. This entry centers on the written word as a way for the past to synchronize with readers in the present. First and foremost, the author explores the importance of imparting knowledge. She sees libraries as “places where truth hides and lives within the words of stories” as well as receptacles for the “voices of civilization.” Books help people think and remember, but the author argues that they can also offer encouragement. In one instance, Clovis writes that a shared story can turn “the captivity of slavery” into a message of freedom. But while the author stresses the power of words and information, her most striking assertion is how harmful the lack of both can be. For example, she cites the Trump administration’s silence after shutting down White House press conferences. She further notes a recent decline in history majors. Because Clovis links truth to history, a shortage of individuals writing about the past will ultimately deprive people of the crucial facts and contexts they need to understand important, present-day issues. As in preceding books, the author intelligently explores social concerns, such as racial discrimination, and includes her personal experiences. She openly discusses an aneurysm, which she incorporates thematically, that momentarily rendered her unable to speak (and, therefore, took away her words). Her easygoing, succinct prose makes occasional criticisms less severe but still profound; rectifying social media’s “fraudulent” news is merely a matter of researching and checking facts. Moreover, Clovis writes in brief, generally one-page chapters. These periodically give way to her striking, poetic reflections: “Night serves a function that illuminates fairy tale dust in the twinkle of a sparkle glitter. It is the color of baby’s breath blown from the cosmic shelves of time.”
A persuasive examination of how books can enlighten and enrich—just like this one.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020
Page count: 76pp
Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020
This fifth installment of a series centered on Princeton examines themes of race, media manipulation, and time traveling via the subconscious.
Clovis’ (Time Is the Length to Forever, 2018, etc.) latest volume, like the preceding novels, comprises short chapters and stories. Many of these deal with racism. The author, for example, tells of slaves in the United States traveling through Princeton on their way to freedom in the North. But slavery unfortunately existed at that time in the city. And though slavery and segregation have been abolished, the author astutely notes instances of racism and discrimination still happening today. She asserts that CBS’ “all white staff” that will cover the 2020 presidential election shows the lack of diversity among journalists. Other chapters sharply criticize media-related incidents, including the murder of journalists chasing civil or political stories and people getting their news from Facebook, which sells users’ personal data. But the author promotes positivity as well, from the celebrated release of the Gregory Hines postage stamp to the upcoming 50-year commemoration of Sesame Street. Throughout her series, Clovis has discussed assessing the past, present, and future via “the quantum field of consciousness,” which combines theories from Jung and Einstein. In this book, she skillfully traverses the “labyrinth of the subconscious” in successive chapters. It’s a surreal but engaging section: The White Rabbit of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland assigns Clovis the task of retrieving the red sap of the Dragon’s Blood Tree. Even with this break in reality, the author’s prose evokes a visually arresting scene: “The garden grows and expands, breaking boundaries, to reveal the steep terrain of a Vertigo dizzying mountain.” Clovis’ dreamlike journey entails traveling to the past and future, but also deftly reflects her personal feelings and experiences. One of the most telling scenes is when the author enters a restaurant of white linens and walls, filled with white patrons who stop eating to stare at the sole dark-skinned diner.
A worthy selection of ardent musings, timely issues, and perceptive prose.
Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2019
Review Posted Online: July 17, 2019
Clovis’ (The Future Is My Past, 2017, etc.) memoir, filled with personal tales and accounts of different social justice issues, considers Princeton University and its city.
Though the author seemed to conclude her Princeton-centric books with what she dubbed the Princeton Trilogy, her fourth book continues to expand on the topic. Short chapters cover a variety of events in the city, many of which Clovis has experienced personally. In the latter half of 2017, for example, residents held a solar eclipse viewing party; a remembrance for victims of the Vegas shooting; and a vigil for Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University graduate detained in Iran on a conviction of espionage. The author likewise shares her views on incidents of racism and discrimination. These include Princeton barbers in the 1960s who refused to cut black people’s “wiry hair” to, more recently, racist language and imagery appearing on a Princeton middle school website. Clovis also addresses anti-Semitism and sexual assault, namely the #MeToo Movement. But personal moments prevail; she recalls shopping at a Princeton store that carried old-school vinyl records and spending teatime with her grandmother. The anecdotes that stand out, however, are stories of Ms. Ida B., an elderly Princeton woman whom the author interviewed for her first book and later befriended. It’s clear Ms. Ida B. is not merely an interview subject, but part of Clovis’ life. The two women attended theatrical performances on slavery. It’s a moment of welcome candor; Clovis is clearly part of the city she documents. Descriptions throughout are concise and colorful: “The white snow illuminates the landscape bright as the black ice recalls the burns of snow plow scraping across its face.” Though Clovis thoroughly examines intolerance in her city and beyond, the book’s ending is more personal than political.
An inspiring, lyrical fusion of pertinent social issues and the writer’s own experiences.
Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2018
Page count: 64pp
Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018
The third of Clovis’ (Six Doors Down, 2017, etc.) Princeton-centric novels uses time travel to examine how discrimination has changed or stayed relatively the same.
A recurring theme in the author’s trilogy is synchronicity, Carl Jung’s notion of “meaningful coincidence.” In her latest installment, Clovis addresses the possibility of traveling to the past and future via consciousness. This opens up discussions on crucial issues, both in their current state and throughout history. For example, there’s been an increase in anti-Semitic attacks since the start of the Trump administration, hate-fueled incidents the author equates with the Holocaust. “Learning the truth of the past and educating future generations,” she notes, “will begin the process of change.” She drives home her point by delving into the concept of parallel worlds. February 2017 global protests to stop the U.S. government from denying Syrian refugees entry is a potential reflection of historical change; in other words, a parallel world without the demonstrations could be considerably worse. As in Clovis’ preceding books, Princeton University is the hub for various tales, from personal accounts to a charter school’s increased budget adversely affecting public schools. But the town of Princeton is especially suitable to this novel; as a sanctuary city, it’s largely protected from Donald Trump’s recent immigrant deportation orders. In addition to racial and religious intolerance, Clovis perceptively tackles other subjects, like new journalism (Facebook as a subpar news source). She retains her effective time motif even in lighthearted moments: university students having to duck out of long lectures to feed parking meters. Most winsome, however, is the story of Clovis giving a heart-shaped pin to Carnethia (mother to Ida B., about whom the author’s previously written), a blue-collar university employee. The pin becomes a “souvenir of time travel,” somehow making its way back to the author. Readers of her earlier works will come to expect Clovis’ precise, striking descriptions: “The green-aged slate plates of roof hold folded, pale yellow, dim-lit, multi-paned windows that reflect the daylight.”
An insightful and earnest collection of stories centered on a sanctuary city.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017
Page count: 112pp
Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017
Clovis (Quantum Leaps in Princeton’s Place, 2015, etc.) continues her fictionalized tales of residents, university students, and faculty in Princeton, New Jersey, as they endure and battle discrimination throughout history.
Many of the real-life people portrayed in this book have harrowing back stories. Italian journalist Roberto Saviano, for example, once enraged the Mafia with his bestselling tell-all book, but now he’s free from constant fear as a teacher at Princeton University. Most others face racism, including the author’s daughter, Michaela, who recalls schoolteachers treating her unfairly. Clovis uses different voices to provide social context, as in a lengthy section featuring Michelle Obama, who attended Princeton in the 1980s; in it, the author quotes the first lady’s 2016 New Hampshire speech in support of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, which discusses bigotry as well as sexism. It’s a startling piece about intolerance at the highest levels and mirrors a later chapter, in which university students in 2015 stage a protest to have Woodrow Wilson’s name removed from the school. The former U.S. president, the author says, was not only in favor of segregation, but also discouraged African-Americans from applying to Princeton when he was head of the university. Throughout, Clovis advocates examining history in order to bring about social change. For example, in 1992, District of Columbia public defender Robert Wilkins was pulled over on suspicion of drug trafficking by Maryland cops (which Clovis faintly links to Princeton via a somewhat similar case); Wilkins’ ensuing lawsuit was both a triumph and a landmark, requiring the state of Maryland to maintain detailed records of traffic stops. The book touches on other unsettling subjects, such as the story of the infamous Menendez brothers; they were convicted of murdering their parents, whose graves are in Princeton Cemetery. One of the best stories, however, relates to Sept. 11, 2001: on her daily train rides to New York City, Clovis noticed that some of her fellow commuters were suddenly gone after the terrorist attack, their fates unknown. This section provides a showcase for the author’s remarkable prose: “I could hear my footsteps echo against the damp cement walkway as I rushed to the train. The echo reminded me of the fear behind me and being alone. Death.”
Short but cogent stories that stimulate as often as they educate.
Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2017
Page count: 108pp
Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017
In her latest novel, Clovis (Another SAT, 2005, etc.) depicts a century of change in the one-time home of Albert Einstein.
Princeton, New Jersey, a tree-lined town dominated by its famous university, contains many magnificent homes—including the Rosedale House, which serves as the focal point of this book. Its residents witness many changes in the town, starting in the early 1900s. Those residents include Ida, an African-American girl who yearns to break away from Carnethia, her suffocating mother; Daisy, the white mistress of the house; her husband, Barker; a rebellious African-American girl named Beatrice; and Tina, who dreams of success as a singer. As they go about their lives, growing and changing, Princeton grows and changes as well; horse-drawn vehicles give way to automobiles, and older homes and buildings are torn down and replaced by modern hotels, stores, and landmarks such as Palmer Square. At the center of everything is the Rosedale House, the one constant in a sea of change. The writing throughout is strong, with frequent use of simile (“They strolled slowly from Nassau Street to the Rosedale house, like a dark sea creeping its way along a pale, sandy beach”). Clovis begins the book with observations about how she came to write it through a happy accident of circumstances. She effectively uses a large, ever-changing cast of characters, weaving them in and out of the story in various locales, but never letting the focus wander from Princeton and the theme of time’s passage. It also depicts the casual and violent racism of American society in the early- to mid-1900s, such as when Beatrice is raped by a white man, or when Daisy attempts to help an African-American family move into another town’s white neighborhood. Even the chapter about Einstein, a legendary character in Princeton for his violin playing and absent-minded wanderings, shows the otherwise open-minded community’s surprising bigotry. Given the recent, racially charged events in Ferguson, Missouri, and other places, Clovis’ version of Princeton seems like a microcosm of America.
An engaging look at the evolution of a town, its people, and its attitudes.
Pub Date: June 5, 2015
Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015
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