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Getting Her Due

June Millicent Jordan, poet, essayist and activist, lived an extraordinary life. Born in Harlem in 1936 to parents who emigrated from the West Indies, she published 28 books of poetry, fiction and essays; became a protg of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and reported on the civil rights movement for the New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune; and co-author- ed, with architectural visionary W.R. Buckminster Fuller, an article for Esquire on redesigning Harlem. (He later nominated her for a Prix de Rome in Environmental Design, which she won.) She was a passionate and persistent activist who ad- vocated for the rights of women, students and the Palestinian people (she declared herself a Palestinian in solidarity). And she taught extensively, ultimately becoming a beloved professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

As is clear from June Jordan, Her Life and Letters, the second book on Jordan by TC Assistant Professor of English Education Valerie Kinloch, Jordan's peripatetic intellectual life played out against the background of an often turbulent personal one. Jordan had a difficult father whom she accused of beating her. Her marriage to a white Columbia College student in 1955 produced a son but ended in separation and then divorce. Jordan carved out a career as a freelance writer while sharing care of her child with relatives. She was stricken by breast cancer and wrote about it with the same vigor she brought to her poetry and her many essays on injustice.

 "Jordan's greatest gift was falling in love," Kinloch quotes a Jordan friend as saying. "She fell in love over and over during her life with a kind of reckless momentum that defied everything else-fear, boredom, rage and disappointment." That love is, so far, unrequited by history. Although Kinloch writes that Jordan is "one of the most published black American writers of all time, even in death," Kinloch notes sadly that many of Jordan's books are carried in sparse numbers by bookstores and remembrances of her are few. Kinloch's work goes a significant distance toward righting that wrong.

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