Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays of June Jordan

June Jordan was an amazing poet, essayist, activist, and teacher. She was the recipient of a Special United States Congressional Recognition for "outstanding contributions to literature, the civil rights movement, and in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community." How great is that?

This volume is primarily a collection of political essays, but it also includes a short and beautiful piece on T'ang poetry titled "A Far Stretch Well Worth the Effort." Writings in the first section are new and most recent. At least three appear to be unpublished before their inclusion here. This includes one of the most powerful and brilliantly written (although they are all well written) essays titled "Hunting for Jews?" where Jordan interweaves an arrest of an Aryan Nation member for murder with her experience of showing solidarity by attending a Jewish religious service in Berkeley. She concludes this essay with "I'm saying, 'Are you hunting for Jews? You're looking for me!'" (p. 31). This final statement gets to the essence of Jordan; she was committed to justice and freedom for all people and was able to identify with victims of persecution across religious, racial, or any other lines.

It would be difficult to point out other important essays here, because the reality is that each one is important. If you have never heard of June Jordan, I recommend reading this book or any of her writings today. You can hear her voice reading one of her poems here:


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