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Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays (New and and Selected Essays) Paperback – March 15, 2003
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An established voice on racism and feminism, Jordan offers a collection of essays that criticizes our reluctance as a nation and as individuals to examine our own moral stances even as we discuss the immorality of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. She declares that Americans are not hated because the nation is free and just, but because it fails to respect the self-determination of others. The collection includes a letter to a friend of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and several essays on a wide array of subjects, including reversals of affirmative action, breast cancer, rape, O. J. Simpson, racial and sexual identity, and bisexuality. All of the pieces are aimed at provoking readers to adapt a larger, more global perspective. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"She remains a thinker and activist who 'insists upon complexity.' " -- Reamy Jansen, San Francisco Chronicle
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This is one of the most important selection of essays I have ever read. As timeless and pertinent as Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider.
A few of my favorite passages:
"Like running trying to live a good life has to hurt a little bit, or we're not running hard enough, not really trying."
"If you are free, you are not predicatable and you are not controllable."
"And then I understood that the answer is yes, yes yes: I care because I want you to care about me. I care because I have become aware of my absolute dependency upon you, whoever you are, for the outcome of my social, my democratic experience."
"How I used to bow my head at the very name of Jesus: ecstatic to abase myself in deference to His majesty."
"We have a rather foggy mess and not much hope for a democratic state when the powerless agree to use a language that blames the victim for the deeds of the powerful."
"At any rate, as my lawyer explained, the law then was the same as the law today; the courts would surely award me a reasonable amount of the father's income as child support, but the courts would also insist that they could not enforce their own decree. In other words, according to the law, what a father owes to his child is not serious compared to what a man owes to the bank for a car, or a vacation."
"In the context of tragedy, all polite behavior is a form of self-denial. I can remember being eight years old and there was my mother warning me to watch the tone of my voice in the middle of a violent fight between my father and myself. The purpose of polite behavior is never virtuous. Deceit, surrender and concealment: these are not virtues." ~June Jordan, "Civil Wars"
"We are not powerless. We are indispensable despite all atrocities of state and corporate policy to the contrary."
"At a minimum we have the power to stop cooperating with our enemies. We have the power to stop the courtesies and let the feelings be real. We have the power not to vote, and not to register for the draft, and not to applaud, and not to attend, and not to buy, and not to pay taxes or rent or utilities. At the very least, if we cannot control things we certainly can mess them up." ~June Jordan, "Civil Wars"
"This means that, as a Black feminist, I cannot be expected to respect what somebody else calls self-love if that concept of self-love requires my suicide to any degree. And this will hold true whether that somebody else is male, female, Black, or white. My Black feminism means that you cannot expect me to respect what somebody else identifies as the Good of The People, if that so-call Good (often translated into manhood or family or nationalism) requires the deferral or the diminution of my self-fulfillment. We are the people." ~June Jordan, "Where is the Love?"
"I wanted to be strong. I never wanted to be weak again as long as I lived. I thought about my mother and her suicide and I thought about how my father could not tell whether she was dead or alive.
I wanted to get well and what I wanted to do as soon as I was strong again, actually, what I wanted to do was I wanted to live my life so that people would know unmistakably that I am alive, so that when I finally die people will know the difference for sure between my living and my death." ~June Jordan, "Many Rivers to Cross"
"When I was a child I never wanted to grow up. Now that I am grown, I look at the children and I think, "God help them to survive us, the big people in their lives." Mostly, of course, our children will not survive our habits of thinking, our failures of the spirit, our wreck of the universe into which we bring new life, as blithely as we do. Mostly, our children will resemble our own misery and spite and anger, because we give them no choice about it. In the name of motherhood and fatherhood and education and good manners, we threaten and suffocate and bind and ensnare and bribe and trick children into wholesale emulation of our ways. Indeed, originality is recognized as disobedience, pathology, incorrigible character and/or unlawful conduct to be prosecuted by the state. Departure from established modes of being is seldom perceived as innovative or valuably alternative or necessary or, in any wise, legitimate. At best, new behavior by the new people among us, the children, is perceived as something to patronize or to tolerate, knowing that the systematic force of our adult demands for slavelike mimicry will likely overcome rebellious inclination, soon enough. Soon enough for what? Soon enough to convert these new lives into old stories we should be mortified, by now, to hear." ~June Jordan, "Old Stories, New Lives"
"As a teacher it is invariably the fact that my primary challenge is, year after year, to convince our children that they know something we need to know, and that their own feelings are important, at least as important as those adult values they must struggle against and, somehow, survive, if they will ever be certified as legitimate human beings." ~June Jordan, "Old Stories, New Lives"
"I am convinced that our children pose the question whereby we must justify our power over their lives, or give it up. It seems tragically evident that we have to give it up: our power, our coercion of new life into old stories; we have to solicit and cultivate and respect major differences of behavior and habit and perspective as they emerge from our new life, our children." ~June Jordan, "Old Stories, New Lives"
It is somewhat depressing to read these essays, some of them years old, and realize how little events have improved or changed. Her essay on Palestine's children is one such example. The title of her book refers to the attacks on September 11th, and she ranges over subjects such as poverty, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, rape and far too many of the horrors of the world. Articulate and passionate, Jordan brings a keen creative mind to her subjects and strangely enough, considering her subjects, a feeling of optimism.
Reading Jordan does give one some hope for the future and the fervent wish for more of her ilk. An original, creative mind, she is sorely missed.