“Despite writing and teaching during a hard-won renaissance for black women authors, Kristin Hunter remains obscure. Michael Gonzales explores why.”
While I feel that the shared premise of the article threw me and the article off a little, the article itself did not.
I don’t think it is that SHE is being overlooked, I think it is that an author from the 1970’s (when The Landlord was published in 1970) is just an older author not being read today. And unless she was super famous and classic then, she isn’t being reread today. Most classics are only read because they are a classic, not because they are actually good. When her book was published and the decades since until now, the black author themselves wasn’t going to often make it big, and when they did it was a rare few but hugely powerful name. A novel of the 1970’s with little notary then just would be overlooked now. and why not? Unless you can catch the attention of the high school English teacher in most cases or if she was doing a lot of relevant stuff to bring her name into the spotlight today, there isn’t a reason. Not all of a sudden all women or women of color writers or any sort of thing will get a spotlight just because “the time is now”. Not to mention an out of print book. For writers then, like mentioned Gay Talese, you are expecting a white author to have read a black women author at all in a time when both were not popular. Especially to a white male. Not only had he not mentioned or perhaps ever read Kristin Hunter, but he actually says “no woman writer inspired him” which goes to show the man was…that kind of man. And though it’s sad that perhaps an amazing writer, a woman writer, and a black woman writer wasn’t recognized then…it isn’t surprising. Most people can only name two female writers of color from that era.
And mentioned “Shaking the Tree: A Collection of New Fiction and Memoir by Black Woman” was published only in 2003. It was the water over the stone that began allowing the voice of black women to be in the spotlight as authors today. A decade and a half later.
The article is fantastic in bringing some “Let me add that to my reading list” shining. Truly, it’s great. But the slant came off a bit wrong with a piece by Catapult opening the shared article of “
Despite writing and teaching during a hard-won renaissance for black women authors, Kristin Hunter remains obscure. Michael Gonzales explores why.” Like..this is unheard of! asinine! Why not?!” Well, there are many why not’s. However, I am glad that the author of the article chose to bring her Kristin Hunt to discussion. Along with many other read worthy mentions and discussion of the black women voice today. Even though they, too, still seem surprised that in the 70/80/90’s and in an all boys Catholic school a male English teacher didn’t not only teach of black women writers, but women writers at all.
“Actually, even in critical literary essays, journals, and books documenting the achievements of Black women writers, Hunter has seemingly been written out of the history. Citing the fact that she was “barely mentioned” in books such as But Some of Us are Brave and Black Women Novelists: The Development of a Tradition, 1892-1976, critic Teresa de Lauretis observed in Feminist Studies/Critical Studies (1986), “Hunter is among the most ignored contemporary black writers.” “ It seems that not only was Hunter ignored as a black writer, but also ignored BY the black community of writers/editors/awards.
This is just to answer your topic. BUT, actually discussing The Landlord, a book written before it’s time…which is simply and completely what it is. If you take the focus off of “why is a woman of color being overlooked today when they are now getting their ground?” and put the focus on a book of gentrification long before it’s time in a time when gentrification is a HUGE topic today, especially for minority neighborhoods, which would resonate with more than only the black communities, you might not only get more attention, but more attention for a woman of color writer.
Now bringing the spotlight to her is a great fantastic thing. And the book today is relevant where many in the 1970’s are often not, or are written too flowery. They don’t speak to today’s language.
In The Soul Brothers and Sister Lou “Afterward, the crew contemplates starting a Black Panther-styled nationalist organization, but instead form a Motown-inspired singing group. “ I think this book would be so relevant today in the shootings of young black men, and the young people protesting altogether. There are ways to go…form political movements and organizations…or form a band. Right? I mean one will (and is needed) shape without force, and one is a needed force in another way spelling it out. Again so very relevant today. To be over shadowed by why a black author was passed-over nearly hurts the amazing information this article holds. But remember, the article states the authors who influenced Hunter herself to be a writer, as two white writers. Oddly enough for myself, it was a black female writer who influenced me to be one.
I am adding to my travels (as I travel the American Roads full-time by RV currently and one of my Things To Do is research local papers of the Civil rights Movement times in the libraries, will now be to add researching for Hunter’s column she wrote in the Pittsburgh Courier. I’d like to see the writing of a girl growing up in that time as well as of her late teen’s age. I myself began writing during that time professionally so am often drawn to that as well. I’ll also be adding on a LOT of the mentioned writings in this article that I have now been introduced to, I would look forward to more recommendations just like them as well. (even personally at firstname.lastname@example.org or PM here).
I also want to praise the writer of this article for being a man of color bringing attention to women of color. I think from what I have learned and studied, that is as important as white people being introduced as well as giving note. The Alabama elections of the powerful voice of black women showed an example of that recently.
“After graduating high school in 1947, Kristin entered the University of Pennsylvania as an education major, receiving her degree in 1951. “While I was an undergraduate at Penn, black literature was not even mentioned,” Hunter told Jeannine DeLombard in 1998, “women were barely tolerated at that time.” In this I’d LOVE to see a comparison of the same college now in both women of color and women altogether. Have we grown? And have we grown enough?
In the book, God Bless the Child, the writer of this article is amazing at pointing out bits and pieces of Hunters writing and books. And again the relevance of them to today. Even within the black community, aside from the black people in the white world, such as “Taking more than a few chances that often puts her in danger, she is equally motivated by her mulatto grandma, who loves Rosie even if she is a little too dark, and her boozy mother who treats her bad and trash talks the child often.” To read Hunter’s Books today even as a school assignment, o like me, as a white female feminist, sounds like an amazing bit of research wrapped up in one movement by one woman that explains so much about the world and the insights of worlds as well as the clash of worlds (such as gentrification). From gentrification to too dark skin that women of color deal with inside their home as well as outside, to black men getting shot by the police and more she IS a voice to be brought to the spotlight today.
Being a black woman, a woman, and a first novel picked up by such a major publishing company is another aspect to consider when reading Hunter, especially as an all around study for writers reading on writing. Bring in her insight on human relations and the woman could BE the book of how writers should write in many aspects. I would have loved to have had the chance to audit one of her classes. (Something else that I do along my travels of great professors and authors.)
In the articles “In 1995, shortly after a supposedly racist incident at the University of Pennsylvania where a Jewish student called a group of black women students “water buffalo,” Hunter retired from her post after her defense of the women was met with her office door being set on fire and a student insulting her to her face. Hunter’s last book, Breaking Away (2003) was based on that experience. Five years later, at her home in Magnolia, New Jersey, Hunter suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 77.” I am saddened, and not ignorant to see the amount of racism and hatred that still exists. Two decades ago, sixty, and today. The story of Hunter, and reading her last book is what is needed in this world. We can’t pretend this doesn’t exist and as so many do in saying the phrase we hear often across the internet “We didn’t have these problems in the 90’s” and even black people have forgotten or not been privy to due to the media’s quiet on the subject, how much truly still existed in the 90’s where people forget about the Million Man March, the dragging death of James Byrd, and happenings such as what had Hunter leaving the college. This is important. Even my stepdad asked why my two youngest (half black half white) sisters were so angry recently..and as a 50 year old man had forgotten that even in his lifetime his single mother at one time could not legally own many things, faced discrimination, and the happenings of the 90’s was all forgotten as well as that his now teenaged son and himself have to fear being pulled over by police every day. The relevance of Hunters book and her own story are truly a light of what we live now, and 50 years ago, and how little, if anything, has really changed but how white-washed, under-media shown, and how easily forgotten it really is.
I don’t think she was overlooked as she didn’t actually write or teach during the “hard-won renaissance for black women” as that is truly only happening now…not twenty years ago. But it is time to give her due acknowledgment now. Thank you to the writer of this article for doing so.