• Irma Herrera

Loving Before Loving: A Conversation


Please join Joan Steinau Lester and me as we discuss her latest book, a memoir, Loving Before Loving, on Sunday afternoon, July 11th, 4-5 pm (Pacific Time). The event is free, but you must register to receive the Zoom link. Register here: https://bit.ly/LesterConvo or by via the QR code.


I was familiar with Joan’s work, having read some of her books and many published essays, and I had heard her commentaries on racial and gender justice on the radio over the decades. During the past two years, we have become friends, and I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about Joan’s commitment to equality that has guided her for decades. The book cover flap description captures the essence of her memoir.


“Committed to the struggle for civil rights, in the late 1950s Joan Steinau Lester marched in protest as a white ally, a young woman coming to terms with her own racism. She soon fell in love with and married the Black writer Julius Lester, establishing a partnership that was long and multifaceted but not free of the politics of race and gender. Over time, as the women’s movement dawned, feminism helped Lester find her voice, her pansexuality, and the courage to be herself.


Braiding intellectual, personal, and political history, Lester tells the story of her fight for love and justice before, during, and after the Supreme Court’s landmark 1967 decision striking down bans on interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia. She describes her own shifts in consciousness, from an activist climbing police barricades by day, reading and writing late into the night, to a woman navigating the coming out process in mid-life. Speaking candidly about every facet of her life, Lester illuminates her intimate journey to fulfillment and healing.


Loving Before Loving is a riveting and deeply personal memoir that eloquently communicates the deep pains of sexism and racism and presents a guide to transforming those pains into strength and meaningful progress. Lester's search for a path that allows her to become the person she wants to be offers insights for anyone struggling for equality within a patriarchal society.”


It was an honor to provide a book blurb and to join the numerous writers vouching for the work.


“This book is the real deal, the way it was. A good book for folks to grow on. I love it! Bravo!"

~Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple


"Weaving her personal history with decades of social history, Lester's memoir beautifully captures her relentless quest to find her voice as a writer and as a woman living on the forefront of social change. An engaging and inspiring narrative!"

~Beverley Daniel Tatum, author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?


You can learn more about Joan's work at her website: http://www.joanlester.com/. It's a good read and please consider ordering the book from an independent bookseller. Amazon offers us so much convenience and discounts, but they do NOT need our business, but small booksellers sure do.

As I was re-reading Loving Before Loving earlier today, I was struck by one of the photos in the book of the FBI poster of the missing civil rights workers who were killed by a white mob, with the assistance of local law enforcement. The reason they were murdered: for registering voters in Mississippi in 1964. Joan was friends with the brother and sister-in-law of Mickey Schwerner, one of the slain young men. The right to vote was long denied to Blacks, American Indians, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans. And people were brutally beaten and some killed for seeking to ensure everyone could register to vote, and actually cast a ballot. Efforts are underway setting up hurdles in many states to restrict voting rights. So the battle to ensure our civil rights is very much still the fight of our lives. We cannot move our nation in the direction of equality while the vote is being suppressed.


I hope you are well, that you and your family are vaccinated, and that you have had the opportunity to reunite with loved ones in person. It has been a very tough year with many people suffering immense personal losses, including the deaths of family and friends, and so much economic hardship.


I haven’t been in touch for the past several months as I dislocated my right shoulder in a fall in April which caused three rotator cuff tendons to tear, requiring surgery. The recovery process has been more difficult than I anticipated and I was encumbered by a sling and belly cushion that immobilized my right arm 24/7 for weeks. I found it impossible to be on a keyboard more than a half-hour each day attending to email and some social media. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get more writing done soon and producing episodes of my Stairwell Teatro in the coming months.


Not sure when my play, Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name? will be back on stage, and I'll certainly let you know of any upcoming public performances. I have been presenting it on zoom to law schools, conferences, and law firms, often as a component of diversity, equity, and inclusion training which has been enormously rewarding. I revise it often to reflect current events in our country.


I look forward to seeing those who can join on Zoom next Sunday, July 11th, 4-5 pm, and to an interesting conversation with Joan Lester. Be sure to register here https://bit.ly/LesterConvo to receive the link you’ll need.


Wishing you a healthy and safe summer.


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