By: Sara Marcus | News  | 

Author Hettie Jones Speaks at YU

On Oct. 22, the Stern College English Department hosted writer and teacher Hettie Jones to read and speak to students.

Jones is the author of 23 books and poetry collections and teaches at the Graduate Writing Program of The New School. Jones is famous for her biographical writings about her experiences in New York City through the Beatnik movement. She and her then-husband, the African-American poet LeRoi Jones, operated the publishing house Totem Press, which printed works from Beats icons Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, among others.

For a little over an hour, Jones read several of her poems from her three poetry collections. Afterward, she took questions from students. Jones spoke candidly about being a mother to biracial children before the Civil Rights Movement, her friendships with artists such as sculptor Helene Dorn, her Jewish identity, and the importance of a positive outlook as a way to thrive as an individual and artist. Jones added speaking at an all-women's college was a first for her, and that she enjoyed the environment, which reminded her of her own all-women college experience.

Dr. Matt Miller, an Associate Professor of English at SCW, decided to bring Jones to speak at Stern after he assigned her memoir, How I Became Hettie Jones, for his American Countercultures course in Spring 2018.

“I thought it was a long-shot, but given how much both I and my students at the time liked her work, I thought it was worth a try bringing her here,” Miller wrote in an email. “I was personally blown away…[by the book’s] charm, modesty, compassion, candor, and humanity...I have read no better look at the amazing culture of NYC in the 1950s.”

Miller described the event as successful, adding that he “heard nothing but great feedback. Ms. Jones..told me how much she enjoyed meeting students at Stern. She described the student body as charming and engaged. She was also delighted by many of the questions asked her at the event. She praised the questions as well informed and relevant.”

Students who attended shared the same enthusiasm as Jones. Sarah Casteel (SCW ‘19) said she “loved” the experience. “[Jones] was hysterical, witty, interesting and inspiring,” she added.

Sarah Ben-Nun (SCW ‘19), who read Jones’s memoir while in Miller’s American Countercultures class, said hearing from and speaking to Jones was an “honor and a privilege and I gained so much from [her].”

Photo Caption: Hettie Jones