"I believe that story can transcend and transform. It is how we find our way back to the human heart."

Desiree Cooper

A 2015 Kresge Artist Fellow, Desiree Cooper is a former attorney, Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist and community activist. She is an evocative speaker on the themes of racial and gender equality, reproductive freedom, family-positive public policy and the welfare of women and girls. As a full-time caregiver for her aging parents, she writes widely about women, self-care and reinvention. A sought-after creative writing instructor, she conducts readings from her flash fiction collection, Know the Mother, like an “instant book club.”

Cooper's fiction dives unflinchingly into the intersection of racism and sexism. Using the compressed medium of flash fiction, she explores intimate spaces to reveal what it means to be human. Her award-winning collection of flash fiction, Know the Mother, was published by Wayne State University Press in March 2016. Her poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in Callaloo, Hypertext Review, The Best Small Fictions 2018, This is the Place, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Best African American Fiction 2010, among other online and print publications. Cooper was a founding board member of Cave Canem, a national residency for emerging black poets. She is currently a Kimbilio fellow, a national residency for African American fiction writers.


Using truth and wit, Desiree Cooper was the perfect conduit for university presses to have larger conversations about diversity and representation through books starting with their covers. Cooper, an electric speaker, is a master at navigating the tricky waters of difficult conversations by never excluding failures, but instead owning and learning from them and encouraging others to grow from these lessons. —Annie Martin, Editor-in-Chief, Wayne State University Press

Desiree gave an inspiring opening plenary at the 2019 Association of University Presses annual meeting.  Her eloquently expressed experience as a writer, storyteller, and citizen enabled her to connect with the group on every level.  She understood our goals and our mission, and her integrity and commitment to progressive values was evident with every turn of phrase.  Desiree is an inspiring and moving speaker, and her words will remain with me for a long time. —Mary C. Francis, Board of Directors, Association of University Presses

Desiree gave a Keynote Address for the 2017 National Summit for Courageous Conversation in Detroit, Michigan. Like a good writer and speaker, she left us wanting to discover more--more of her research, more of her rapt storytelling, more of her analysis... more of Desiree Cooper.  Andrea Johnson, Executive Director at Courageous Conversation Global Foundation, Las Vegas, Nevada

It's rare to encounter a public speaker who is completely comfortable and confident, projecting know-how and valuable information, without being hard to approach. She's got a message, but she's open-minded. She's on your side, but she can play devil's advocate, too. All of this adds up to a woman who can work with an audience in myriad ways, and who can teach and deliver speeches "on her feet," as they say--again, all with that calm poise that's so memorable. Highly recommended. Katey Schultz, creative director, Interlochen Summer Writers' Retreat, Interlochen, MI

Throughout her visit to our program, I was impressed by Desiree's warmth, expertise, and ability to engage students. Her generosity and creative insights left a lasting impression on my students, and led to demonstrated improvements in their creative projects post-residency. Laura Hulthen Thomas, Program Head, Creative Writing Program, Residential College, University of Michigan