Jane Eaton Hamilton

"I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.” – Lillian Hellman

Tag: Ntozake Shange

Many Gendered Mothers

I edit for many gendered mothers, a project on literary influence featuring short essays by writers (of any/all genders) on the women, femme, trans, and non-binary writers who have influenced them, as a direct or indirect literary forebear.

This project is directly inspired by the American website Literary Mothers, created by editor Nadxieli Nieto and managing editor Nina Puro. While we hope that Literary Mothers might eventually return to posting new pieces, our site was created as an extension and furthering of their project (in homage, if you will), and not meant as any kind of replacement.

Even though we’re new, a lot of terrific pieces have already appeared. Catch up with the essays we’ve published so far:


Many Gendered Mothers: Ntozake Shange

I’m not sure Ntozake Shange would be thrilled at being my literary mentor, but nevetheless, she was my first and I honour her every writing day.

Many Gendered Mothers

Because we love your work and we thank you…

A lot of people included only men on a best-of-writers list going around FB, so other folks mentioned these women/genderqueer and trans folk as their recommended/favourite/influential writers. (There are some repeats.)

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Annie Dillard, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Mary Oliver, Jamaica Kincaid, Rebecca Solnit, Terry Tempest Williams, Alice Walker, Olga Broumas, Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Zora Neale Hurston, Eden Robinson, Louise Erdrich, Alice Munro, Alice Walker, Margaret Atwood, Lee Maracle, Toni Morrison, Stephanie Bolster, Mavis Gallant, Joyce Carol Oates, Ursula K. Le Guin, Joy Kogawa, Elyse Gasco, Charlotte Bronte, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Sylvia Plath, Miriam Toews, Vendela Vida, Maya Angelou, Danzy Senna, Han Nolan, Nancy Gardner, Maira Kalman, Anchee Min, Louise Fitzhugh, Bett Williams, Laurie Colwin, Jane Bowles, Colette, Sappho, Marilyn Hacker, Heather O’Neill, Eliza Robertson, Marianne Boruch, Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein, Alice B Toklas, Adrienne Rich, Denise Levertov, Sylvia Plath, Tracy Smith, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Virginia Woolf, Louise Labe, Marguerite Yourcenar, Olga Broumas, Jeanette Winterson, Moniq Witting, June Jordan, Fleda Brown, Irene McPherson, Virginia C. Gable, Alice Walker, Lidia Yuknavitch, Kate Gray, Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, Joy Harjo, Zsuzsanna Budapest,Toni Morrison, Monica Drake, Leslie Marmon Silko, Alice Walker, L.M. Montgomery, Alice Munro, Dionne Brand, Joy Kogawa, Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath, Toni Morrison, Elizabeth Hay, Adrienne Rich, Isabel Allende, Marge Piercy, Sappho, Anais Nin, Simone de Beauvoir, Nina Bouraoui, Nicole Brossard, Kathy Acker, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Jeanette Winterson, Zoe Whittall, Marnie Woodrow, Marilyn Hacker, Lydia Kwa, Gertrude Stein, Olga Broumas, Monique Wittig, Marguerite Duras, Joy Kogawa, Jamaica Kinkaid, Lidia Yuknavitch, Maxine Hong Kingston, Beryl Markham, Jane Smiley, Alice Walker, Ntokake Shange, Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Katherine Dunn, Cheryl Strayed, Lidia Yuknavitch, Toni Morrison, Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, Jamacia Kinkaid, Amy Tan, Rebecca Skloot, Amanda Coplin, Miriam Towes, Rene Denfield, Louise Erdrich, Joyce Carol Oates, Mary Gordon, Annie Dillard, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ann Patchett, Sharon Olds, Arundhati Roy, Toni Morrison, Amber Dawn, Eden Robinson, Warsan Shire, Annie Proulx, Ntozake Shange, Mary Gaitskill, Shirley Jackson, Eudora Welty, Gish Jen, Ann Beattie, Flannery O’Connor, Shani Mootoo, Tillie Olsen, Miriam Toews, Lorrie Moore, Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, Nathanaël, Sappho, Anna Kavan, Sylvia Plath, Myung Mi Kim, Bessie Head, Caroline Bergvall, Anne Carson, Lisa Robertson, Liz Howard, Soraya Peerbaye, Jean Rhys, Clarice Lispector, Nella Larsen, Brecken Hancock, Audre Lorde, Emily Brontë, Natalee Caple, Natalie Simpson, Larissa Lai, Gertrude Stein, Unica Zurn, Sarah Waters, Maureen Hynes, Andrea Routley, Jane Byers, Tina Biella, Wendy Donowa, Emma donaghue, Rita Wong, Ali Blythe, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Betsy Warland, Daphne Marlatt, Persimmon Blackbridge, Gabriella Golager, Dionne Brand, Chrystos, Lee Maracle, Robyn Stevenson, Monique Grey Smith, June Arnold

We’ve left out far more stellar writers than we’ve included. I love that there are a few I haven’t heard of/many I haven’t read. I also love that if I could read no one else but the above-mentioned for the rest of my life, I’d be in superbly talented/skilled hands.

Thanks to: Sami Grey, Susan Briscoe, RF Redux, Ann Ireland, Celeste Gurevich, Cate Gable, Lisa Richter, Ellen K. Antonelli, Rene Denfield, Nikki Sheppy, Arleen Paré

Writing–how it began

My first marriage, largely a marriage of convenience in order that my hubby could get a draft deferment and I could stay in the US, busted up while we were living in NY.  After the split, I had a two-story walk-up on the park block of W 85th while I attended NYU  (anthropology); my ex kept coming over insisting we should reconcile and have babies.  I didn’t want babies.  I was single in NY, a student, a dancer, and I had a job selling luggage in the Trade Towers.  I had designs on education–I wanted lots of it.  In my psych class, I had a pet rat with an inch wide red magic marker band on his tail, and at home, in my building next to the red whorehouse, I had a dog, Keiko, a short golden mutt with pretensions of being a lab.  The ex was taking Clint, the whippet, with him to San Francisco, and he cajoled me to come along.  I finally agreed to transfer the whole shooting match out west, though not to live with Gary, and started to make noises about closing up shop in NY.  There was a guy, Michael, I loved but didn’t want to love.  It wouldn’t have worked between us–any idiot could see that.  I’d met him the night of his Carnegie Hall debut.  He was a percussionist in Tequila Mockingbird Chamber Ensemble, and we spent long afternoons in the park while the ensemble enchanted the wind, Michael on vibraphone, Jürgen on violin, Burt on lyric trumpet, and me passing their hat and later counting dimes.  Bach: Little Fugue in G Minor.  (You can listen to them here:  Mockingbird.)  There were illicit afternoons in bed with Michael, and even though he had someone else, he kept sneaking over, and I kept opening my door, and I kept loving him with a fierce burn that kept me hot and then, when we were apart, shivering, and so it was time to leave the city.

It was spring semester, my last year of undergrad, and I didn’t sign up for classes.  I thought I ought to see the shows on and off Broadway in the two weeks before I flew out, and then  go north to visit my mother in Canada, and my brother in Vancouver, en route.  I saw dozens of plays, and I finally saw, by accident, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide But the Rainbow Was Enuf by Ntozake Shange, and when I stepped blinking back into daylight, gobsmacked, I was a writer.  I could have walked right back into my going-along life, but because of Shange’s stirring words, everything changed, and I walked out a writer.  At first, I just made myself write a poem a day for six months to making writing habitual, then I started writing the poems and stories that would eventually become my books.

The little dog, Keiko, took up car-chasing, biting tires, and was eventually hit by a truck in Pass Creek, BC, dying from her injuries.  I had two babies.  I came out.

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