In the Company of Radical Women Writers (Paperback)
Recovering the bold voices and audacious lives of women who confronted capitalist society’s failures and injustices in the 1930s—a decade unnervingly similar to our own
In the Company of Radical Women Writers rediscovers the political commitments and passionate advocacy of seven writers—Black, Jewish, and white—who as young women turned to communism around the Great Depression and, over decades of national crisis, spoke to issues of labor, land, and love in ways that provide urgent, thought-provoking guidance for today. Rosemary Hennessy spotlights the courageous lives of women who confronted similar challenges to those we still face: exhausting and unfair labor practices, unrelenting racial injustice, and environmental devastation.
As Hennessy brilliantly shows, the documentary journalism and creative and biographical writings of Marvel Cooke, Louise Thompson Patterson, Claudia Jones, Alice Childress, Josephine Herbst, Meridel Le Sueur, and Muriel Rukeyser recognized that life is sustained across a web of dependencies that we each have a duty to maintain. Their work brought into sharp focus the value and dignity of Black women’s domestic work, confronted the destructive myths of land exploitation and white supremacy, and explored ways of knowing attuned to a life-giving erotic energy that spans bodies and relations. In doing so, they also expanded the scope of American communism.
By tracing the attention these seven women pay to “life-making” as the relations supporting survival and wellbeing—from Harlem to the American South and Midwest—In the Company of Radical Women Writers reveals their groundbreaking reconceptions of the political and provides bracing inspiration in the ongoing fight for justice.
About the Author
Rosemary Hennessy is L. H. Favrot Professor of Humanities and professor of English at Rice University. She is author of three other books, including Fires on the Border (Minnesota, 2013).
"This truly revelatory work pushes the already rich encounters between contemporary left feminist scholars and 1930s radical women writers in new directions—new ways of thinking and new fields of desire. Beautifully written, it is a model of engaged, compassionate, and grounded activist research."—Paula Rabinowitz, author of American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street and coeditor of Writing Red: An Anthology of American Women Writers, 1930-1940
"Rosemary Hennessy’s latest book (re)introduces women writers of the Communist Left who thought the unthinkable of their time and increasingly ours: Black left feminism, radical ecology, the ‘erotics of race work.’ Their work, and Hennessy’s, are primers and love letters for liberation. In the Company of Radical Women Writers exemplifies materialist feminism, scholarship on the American Left, and literary studies for the twenty-first century."—Cheryl Higashida, author of Black Internationalist Feminism: Women Writers of the Black Left, 1945-1995
"In the Company of Radical Women Writers is significant; it covers 1930s literary history, the civil rights and women’s rights movements, and the under-heralded work of seven powerful writers."—Foreword