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About Lorene Cary


New work

Fall 2023: TRW publishes My General Tubman, where we see the iconic Harriet Tubman as a time traveler, leader of the Civil War Combahee River Raid--and post-war wife. Books, digital copies and licensing. COVID shutdown release!

January 2024: World premiere of Ladysitting, commissioned by Arden Theatre in Philadelphia. It's an adaptation of my memoir about caring for my grandmother at the end of her life. In this take, Death makes an appearance. Literally.


2026: Jubilee! with composer Damien Geter for Portland Opera. Can we sing the Black future into being? The original Jubilee singers did, taking the spirituals into concert halls from here to Europe and making enough money to buy the land on which their university sits and Jubilee Hall, still standing! Black legacy, love, death, and joy.



My General Tubman, premiered January 2020 at Arden Theatre in Philadelphia. Playing to sold-out houses, including high-school matinees, the play was twice extended, before it was finally shut down in March by COVID. NJ Theatre Alliance 2021 Stages Festival featured it as a virtual reading.


For the American Lyric Theater’s Composer & Librettist Development Program, I wrote a one-act opera libretto that takes off from Ladysitting. Composer Liliya Ugay set a lyrical score titled The Gospel According to Nana. 


Ladysitting: My Year with Nana at the End of Her Century, published by W.W. Norton Books, in 2019, is also available as an audiobook recording. Five generations' love and rupture aim my grandmother and our family toward care-taking her final year. Paperback: July 2020.


The American Lyric Theater’s Composer & Librettist Development Program, I wrote a one-act opera libretto that takes off from Ladysitting. Composer Liliya Ugay set a lyrical score titled The Gospel According to Nana.  


Black Ice, about my experience attending St. Paul's School in NH in the early days of coeducation and racial integration, has been taught in schools and colleges, excerpted for anthologies, quoted and has begun to show up in dissertations. Published by (Knopf, 1991; Vintage 1992)

Novels include The Price of a Child, chosen as the inaugural One Book One Philadelphia in 2003, and One Book One Norristown in 2022, emerged from my research into William Still's Underground Railroad, particularly the stunning story of Jane Johnson.  (Vintage 1995)

Pride is my take on the girlfriend novel, including politics, cancer, ministry and addiction to go with the sexy parts! (Anchor 1999)


If Sons, Then Heirs., called " a tour de force" and "a triumph" as it moves through generations and their land in South Carolina and  a Philadelphia descendant who must learn  the truth about his grandfather's lynching. (Washington Square Press, 2011) 


Writing, teaching, and civic engagement

My scripts for videos at The President's House exhibit on Independence Mall in Philadelphia show the lives of nine enslaved Africans who worked in the House next to where the Liberty Bell is now displayed.


For 25 years I have taught fiction and non-fiction at UPenn. In 2018, I created #VotethatJawn to let my students write blogs, social media, and articles to bring Philly youth to the polls. Their contributions--and those of other youth--are phenomenal.  


I founded Art Sanctuary in 1998 to enrich urban Philadelphia with the excellence of Black art, and stepped down because founders should, in 2012.


From 2011-2013, I served on Philadelphia's School Reform Commission, chaired a newly created Safety Committee, eliminating zero-tolerance punishments for kids. 


Honors include: UPenn’s Provost's Award for Distinguished Teaching, The Philadelphia Award, and honorary doctorates from Swarthmore, Muhlenberg, Colby, and Keene State Colleges, and Arcadia and Gwynedd Mercy Universities.

News, Reviews, and Interviews

  • Reality Check Podcasts with Charles Ellison: Listen Here

  • June 4, 2020, Honored by St. James School, Philadelphia. The video tribute is so precious to me!

Tubman Today Toasts

Tubman Today Toasts

Join us as we celebrate the 200th Birthday of Tubman set in March, the known month of her transition in 1913. Author and playwright Lorene Cary will discuss and present staged readings from her production "My General Tubman," a play that draws inspiration from the latter part of Tubman's life, and highlights connections between her legacy and contemporary events. This program will feature some of Cary's creative work mediated by actors, and framed by some of the known contexts of Tubman's life, such as her love of hymns, the writings she kept with her (although she could not read), and her understanding of the importance of voting rights. Virtual Audiences joined in a synchronous "toast" to Tubman and pledged to carry on Tubman's fight for voting rights throughout March and beyond. This program is presented in partnership with the City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy; PA Youth Vote; #VoteThatJawn; Arden Theatre Company; the Office of Philadelphia City Commissioner Omar Sabir; the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University Libraries; and Harriett's Bookshop. Toastmasters: 1. Philadelphia Commissioner Omar Sabir 2. Sheyla Street, West Point Cadet 3. Angela Pajares, UPenn Senior, reading toast by PA State Rep. Joe Webster, 150th Legislative District 4. Kyla Downs, UPenn Senior, reading toast from Messeret Stroman Wheeler, who played Harriet in My General Tubman for the 2021 NJ Theater Festival 5. Carson Eckhard, Volunteer Coordinator, The Liberation Foundation + Supreme Court and Appellate Practice Assistant, McDermott Will & Emery 6. Helena Wolk, UPenn Senior 7. Girard College student 8. Girard College Student 9. Sharif El-Mekki, Chief Executive Officer, The Center for Black Educator Development 10. Valerie Gay, Deputy Director of Audience Engagement + Chief Experience Officer at Barnes 11. Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania 12. Samantha Delman, UPenn Senior


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