Madison authors, topics, book events and publisher
Stu Levitan welcomes the social justice activist, educator, award-winning columnist, and author Joan Steinau Lester. Her memoir Loving Before Loving: A Marriage in Black and White is just out from our very good friends at the University of Wisconsin Press. Along with her Madison publisher, Joan also could have joined us as a Madison author, with a Ph D from the fabled UW history department; but, for reasons we’ll discuss, she was unable to accept the department’s offer.
Personally, and professionally, Joan Steinau Lester has been at the forefront of most of the great social justice movements of the last seven decades. As a teenager, she refused to sign an anti-Communist loyalty oath and picketed for civil rights. At 22, she married a Black man, the writer, educator and activist Julius Lester, in 1962, when mixed-race marriages were illegal in 27 states. At 64, she married a White woman when that wasn’t legal anywhere. In the late sixties, she was part of an early Women’s Liberation group with such prominent feminists as Robin Morgan, Kate Millet, Flo Kennedy, Ti-Grace Atkinson and others. And long before diversity, equity and inclusion were common buzzwords, she used her doctorate in multicultural education from the University of Massachusetts to give anti-racism workshops, then co-found and direct the nonprofit Equity Institute in 1981.
Her previous books include the novel Mama’s Child, with a foreword by Alice Walker; the young adult novel Black, White, Other; a biography of her friend from Antioch College, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Fire in My Soul; Taking Charge: Every Woman’s Action Guide, and The Future of White Men and Other Diversity Dilemmas.
Her columns have been published in USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan and New York Times.
She received the National Lesbian and Gay Siegenthaler Award for Commentary on National Public Radio and was a Finalist from the PEN/Bellweather Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, and for the Arts & Letters Creative Nonfiction award for narrative nonfiction. She lives in Berkeley California with her wife Carole, to whom Loving Before Loving is dedicated. It is a pleasure to welcome to MBB, Dr. Joan Steinau Lester.