Courtney Thorsson

Courtney Thorsson is an associate professor in the English Department at the University of Oregon, where she teaches, studies, and writes about African American literature from its beginnings to the present.

Her first book, WOMEN’S WORK: Nationalism and Contemporary African American Women’s Novels, argues that Toni Cade Bambara, Paule Marshall, Gloria Naylor, Ntozake Shange, and Toni Morrison reclaim and revise cultural nationalism in their novels of the 1980s and 90s. Her writings appear in Callaloo; African American Review; MELUS; Gastronomica; Foodscapes: Food, Space, and Place in a Global Society; Contemporary Literature; and Public Books.

Courtney’s new book, THE SISTERHOOD: How a Network of Black Women Writers Changed American Culture, will be available in November 2023. Written with the support of a Public Scholars Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the book  tells the story of how a remarkable community of African American women writers including Alice Walker, June Jordan, Vertamae Grosvenor, and Toni Morrison, transformed American writing and cultural institutions.



“Starting with a photograph, Courtney Thorsson brings her all to this luminous work about The Sisterhood, a group of Black women writers who met informally in the 1970s. Together they transformed American literature and helped to shape generations of writers, visual artists, filmmakers, and scholars. This is a profoundly important story and it has found an astute and sensitive author in Thorsson.” – Farah Jasmine Griffin, author of In Search of a Beautiful Freedom: New and Selected Essays

“Proceeding from an archive of one iconic photograph of The Sisterhood, 1977, Courtney Thorsson has pieced together the story of how Black women writers, in intimate and collaborative gatherings throughout New York in the 1970s, created literary history. It is an indispensable, fascinating and original history and one that might have been lost without Thorsson’s loving and meticulous archival work.” – Mary Helen Washington, author of The Other Blacklist: The African American Literary and Cultural Left of the 1950s

Books, Films & Projects


Courtney Thorsson speaks about her new book, THE SISTERHOOD, and the photo that inspired it.

Courtney Thorsson speaks about her book, WOMEN'S WORK: Nationalism and Contemporary African American Women’s Novels.


THE SISTERHOOD: How a Network of Black Women Writers Changed American Culture is an Amazon #1 New Release in 20th Century Literary Criticism! Available on November 14. Pre-order.