HOW I BECAME HETTIE JONES by Hettie Jones

HOW I BECAME HETTIE JONES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Life among the Beats--Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Frank O'Hara, among scores of others-as recalled by the woman who, as the first wife of poet/playwright LeRoi Jones, shared the aspirations, achievements and austerities of that rebellious band. This is a lively, candid account that examines not only the 1950's and 60's milieu of cold-water East Village flats and boozy nights at the Cedar Bar but, more importantly, shows how racism and sexism colored (and all too often distorted) the rebels' ideals. Hettie Jones was born into a resolutely conventional Jewish family from Laurelton, Queens. Early on, she displayed vaguely artistic leanings (music, theater). It was almost inevitable that she should gravitate to the bohemian world of New York's Greenwich Village. Once there, she soon met and moved in with as yet-unpublished black poet LeRoi Jones. They eventually married and produced two daughters. Jones' descriptions of the reactions of family, friends, and strangers to their interracial relationship are perceptive and moving. Her husband was soon bedding a series of other women, and Hettie engaged in a few extramarital flings herself. It was not, however, these infidelities that eventually torpedoed the marriage. Instead, it was LeRoi's increasing black radicalism--he could not, it seems, reconcile his racial beliefs with marriage to a white woman. Jones does a splendid job depicting the druggy highs and morning-after lows of life on the edge. Her vignettes of some of the leaders of the group are always insightful and frequently amusing, as when she tells of a party at which a nude Ginsberg and his lover paraded about with a sofa on their heads, shouting ""Hat, hat."" A refreshingly honest, probing portrait.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
ISBN: 0802134963
Publisher: Dutton