cover image Life Studies, 1966–1976

Life Studies, 1966–1976

June Jordan, edited by Conor Tomás Reed and Talia Shalev. CUNY/Lost & Found, $8 trade paper (76p) ISBN 978-0-9976796-4-9

This brief, stimulating selection of education-focused writings from poet and activist Jordan (1936–2002) demonstrates her brilliance, compassion, and ceaseless engagement with the world. Culled from Jordan’s papers at the Radcliffe Institute, these eight pieces collectively delineate structural inequities that constrain the life choices of young people of color while also persuasively arguing, in the words of the editors, “that poetry can provide a route to a radical reconfiguration of consciousness.” The editors also note how, over this decade-long span, Jordan shifts from the deterministic outlook of her 1966 essay on slum housing (“Where you live inevitably determines how you live there”) to a more optimistic position on possibilities for individual and communitarian change. This movement occurred in large part due to Jordan’s work with children and can be seen in her own documentation of that work; she describes one workshop in which the group “tried to obliterate the usual distinctions between creative writing, or art, and life.” In a 1970 speech to Brooklyn middle schoolers, she decries how the “earnest, real needs” of black and Puerto Rican children are met “with nothing more than irrelevant and contemptuous instruction.” Jordan composed these pieces as a radical grassroots activist who fought racism and austerity measures; what’s remarkable is how relevant her work is today.[em] (Feb.) [/em]