"It works, we're in business, yeah Babe!" So begins this remarkable selection from a forty-year correspondence between two artists who survived their time as wives in the Beat bohemia of the 1960s and went on to successful artistic careers of their own.
From their first meeting in 1960, writer Hettie Jones—then married to LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka)—and painter and sculptor Helene Dorn (1927–2004), wife of poet Ed Dorn, found in each other more than friendship. They were each other's confidant, emotional support, and unflagging partner through difficulties, defeats, and victories, from surviving divorce and struggling as single mothers, to finding artistic success in their own right.
Revealing the intimacy of lifelong friends, these letters tell two stories from the shared point of view of women who refused to go along with society’s expectations. Jones frames her and Helene's story, adding details and explanations while filling in gaps in the narrative. As she writes, "we'd fled the norm for women then, because to live it would have been a kind of death."
Apart from these two personal stories, there are, as well, reports from the battlegrounds of women's rights and tenant's rights, reflections on marriage and motherhood, and contemplation of the past to which these two had remained irrevocably connected. Prominent figures such as Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary appear as well, making Love, H an important addition to literature on the Beats.
Above all, this book is a record of the changing lives of women artists as the twentieth century became the twenty-first, and what it has meant for women considering such a life today. It's worth a try, Jones and Dorn show us, offering their lives as proof that it can be done.
How I Became Hettie Jones
Greenwich Village in the 1950s was a haven to which young poets, painters, and jazz musicians flocked. Among them was Hettie Cohen, who'd been born into a middle-class Jewish family in Queens and who'd chosen to cross racial barriers to marry the controversial black poet LeRoi Jones. Theirs was a bohemian life in the awakening East Village of underground publishing and jazz lofts, through which drifted such icons of the generation as Allen Ginsberg, Thelonious Monk, Jack Kerouac, Frank O'Hara, Billie Holiday, James Baldwin, and Franz Kline.
"A feminist scrutiny such as this is just what those last decades needed, as the beats themselves needed it."-Lawrence Ferlinghetti
"Hettie Jones has written a rare and valuable book, a personal story that works equally as history. Her memoir is the memoir of an important and historic milieu; it's probably the best account yet written of what it was like to be at the center of New York Bohemianism in the 1950s and 1960s. Her honesty and forgiveness and the clarity of her writing are exemplary and moving."-Russell Banks
"This is a story every American ought to read, written by someone who is generous and loving. The writing is easy, effortless, honest, like a letter from a friend, but this artful book is full of history."
All Told adds to the achievement of Drive. Readers who have appreciated Jones's previous works will be exhilarated by this one. An engaging meditation from the personal to the collective. (Booklist, 2003)
The Trees Stand Shining: Poetry of the North American Indians
ALA Notable Book
School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
Society of Illustrators’ Citation of Merit
The poems in this extraordinary collection have been sung for many years, and are part of the remarkable Native American oral tradition. In keeping with Indian philosophy each of the poems glorifies nature and a close relationship with the earth-- what is seen in the skies, in growing things, and in animals. Every section captures this awareness of beauty in a different life experience and was arranged by Hettie Jones to trace a journey through two days time.
“Hettie Jones’s sensitivity to the Indians’ awareness of nature is one of the book’s strengths.” –New York Times Book Review
“A rich experience, one too good to miss.” –School Library Journal, starred review For Children Ages 3 and up
The Poetry Society of America 's 1999 Winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award, Drive was hailed as the work of a "potent and fearless poet," with "a good mind and sound ideas" and the "gift to paint with vivid words and to cloak her wit with images that linger in the mind long after the reading."
“Hettie Jones writes with gusto, wide-ranging compassion and sensitive wit. Hers is a voice of appealing authenticity; the well-arranged poems in Drive welcome us aboard and carry us deeply, comfortably, into the city, into memory and the human heart. There is nothing extra here, no intrusive sense of ‘crafting’ or ‘intention’—but a clear, compelling spirit and appetite, a thoughtful eye and deep care….” -Naomi Shihab Nye (from the PSA Award citation)
"Readers will instantly know that Jones is committed to being fully present in the world. That’s why she writes with such engaged interest about what we know well—everyday life. Whether presenting New York scenes with delightfully quirky insight, offering biting but brief political commentary, or lightly cloaking compact observations on the state of the world in simple words with sharp wit, Jones reveals the wisdom of someone who has really thought about life. Yet her greatest gift, which will make readers wish they could befriend her, is the way she sympathetically connects with strangers, observing in the same way as a concerned friend carefully listens."-Janet St. John(Booklist, 2007)
Big Star Fallin' Mama
This revised edition of Hettie Jones's classic 1974 book has been updated with information on today's musical trends. The role of African American women in the molding of this nation's musical heritage has been as essential as a heartbeat. Without Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday, and Aretha Franklin, the songs that fill the airwaves today would be unimaginable. Because of the long vibrant tradition these earlier women created, we now hear Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Hudson, and Beyoncé.
“The passionate, personal music of Black America is one of this nation’s greatest cultural treasures. The essence of this art, as it has been evolving over the years, is extraordinarily difficult to put into words, but Hettie Jones has done just that, and extremely well, for readers of all ages.” -New York Magazine
“Devotees of biography and blues fans are in for a treat.” -School Library Journal
“Hettie Jones has written something very beautiful and important here…warm, touching, and richly informed.”—The New York Times