by Christina Diamente
No girl had ever moved me with a story of spiritual suffering
And so beautifully her soul showing out radiant as an angel wandering in hell
And the hell the self-same streets I’d roamed in watching, watching for someone just like her
The Subterraneans, p.50
Jack Kerouac wrote the lines above about the main character in his book The Subterraneans—Mardou Fox. Mardou Fox was Jack Kerouac’s lost love in the novel, and in Kerouac’s real life Mardou was perhaps the only woman ever to walk away from him before he was done with her. Mardou was, until recently, the only literary persona whose true identity had not been revealed by any of his major or early biographers, or by any literary historians of that period. The real Mardou had remained anonymous, and was therefore one of the few ‘best kept secrets’ Kerouac’s books. The omission of Mardou’s real identity and her subsequent role in the literary history of that time, has left gaps in that history that are both revelatory and parallel to the views of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Carr, and Corso on blacks and women. This absence of her presence is, in fact, partially a direct result of Mardou’s impact on the biographers and their books. No biographer would reveal her true identity, because, in her lifetime, she fiercely (and legally) demanded anonymity.
However, Mardou, on her deathbed, spoke these last words to me* and Maryanne Nowack (a now deceased New York City artist): “I want you to do whatever you can to help keep me alive.” These words, which one could construe as a simple wish to remain alive by any means possible, came during the predicted end-stage of a fast-growth terminal lung cancer, which Mardou had fought for the previous year and a half. The words became, for me, a directive to reinstate the speaker into the official literary history of that time.
Since Mardou knew that she was dying and had requested a Do Not Resuscitate order, it was clear that a fulfillment of this last request would have to be accomplished in a literary manner, since a literal fulfillment of that wish would have been impossible.
Nineteen years after her death, I can finally say that Mardou was my mother. Her real name was Alene Lee (ne Arlene Garris), a 5’2” African and Native American, and an American-bred beauty. She was so renowned for her beauty that men throughout New York City (particularly in the Village and in little Italy, where she was a living legend courtesy of The Subterraneans) pursued her well into her 40s. However, Alene was more than beautiful. She was, quite simply, one of the most brilliant of all the Beats that Kerouac knew in his days in the coffee shops and bars of 1950s New York City. Lucien Carr, one of Kerouac’s closest friends and a literary collaborator (whose persona he used frequently in his novels– Sam in The Subterraneans) said of Alene, “When I was given an IQ test, I scored 155, but I consider Alene to be smarter than I am. She is the most intelligent woman I know.” Allen Ginsberg, also a close friend of both Kerouac and Carr, said in a 1997 interview at the loft of Virginia Admiral, “Alene was a peer, and we [Kerouac, Burroughs, and Carr] considered her an equal.”
Alene, however, because of her determination to remain unnamed as the real-life Mardou and perhaps as a result of her sometimes-hostile relations with the Kerouac biographers, came to be depicted by those same biographers as a somewhat peripheral character in Kerouac’s life and in the BeatGeneration. In one photographic history of the era Alene is insultingly described as a “groupie” admirer of Kerouac’s. Nothing could have been further from the truth, nor a more devastating description to Alene, for she was a fiercely independent woman, who had never even been a Beat fan, much less an ardent fan. Another writer, who contributed to the concept of Alene as “less than” the men of the time, was Anne Charters, who referred to Alene throughout her biography of Kerouac as simply “the black girl.” This description had infuriated Alene, since she considered it to be a racist devaluation of herself as a person, and a reduction of herself as a human being to a sex and race. Alene said years later that she felt it was Charters’ way of paying her back for her having demanded anonymity in her Kerouac biography.
As the first biographer Alene worked with, or to be more accurate the first that she refused to cooperate with, Charters suffered the wrath of a woman who was trying to both conceal her identity (because of painful experiences she had as a result of Kerouac’s book about her) and who was also trying to protect the great love of her life—Lucien Carr (who had many memories he was unwilling to reveal or discuss like his conviction for murdering a homosexual friend). Alene had never worked with a biographer before and to her it seemed inappropriate to discuss her love and sex life with a stranger—particularly since the biography subject—Kerouac—was dead. She didn’t feel it was honorable to reveal ‘truths’ about the dead Kerouac or about the then alive Lucien.Exposing her own and others’ private lives and subjecting them to pain, was not something she was willing to do. Unfortunately, Alene would pay a steep price for her reluctance to speak in her interviews with Kerouac biographer Ann Charters. She had to endure years of pain from being portrayed erroneously as a black girl groupie who hung out with junkies.
While subsequent biographers Barry Gifford, Lawrence Lee, and Gerald Nicosia were able to find a compromise pathway for Alene to express her views and experiences on Kerouac and the time of the Beats, Charters virtually eliminated her as a persona and as a figure of that time, potentially as a response to Alene’s demand for anonymity. Alene viewed Charters’ characterizations as deliberate attempts to dehumanize and humiliate her–creating an unsympathetic portrayal of her in the process. Biographers Gifford and Lee, who gave Alene the pseudonym “Irene May,” fared somewhat better, in Alene’s estimation, since they did not interpret or ‘spin’ her words in keeping with the aural tradition of direct quotes that they used in the book. Author Gerald Nicosia, in his biography Memory Babe, referred to her simply as “’Mardou,’ and he printed his interviews with her almost verbatim, to Alene’s satisfaction.
It was Alene’s negative experience with the biographer Charters that led her to demand strict confidentiality and anonymity agreements with all of the subsequent Kerouac biographers that interviewed her and Lucien Carr (with whom she was living throughout the years from 1962-1973). Both Gifford and Lee, who wrote Jack’s Book, and Gerald Nicosia, had to sign elaborate agreements which kept Alene anonymous and which protected, to the degree possible, Lucien Carr, who was understandably less than happy about the constant rehashing of his 1944 murder of David Kammarer.
Carr, in a 1992 phone interview, had actually requested that this work about Alene Lee not be written, admonishing me with his feeling that Alene “would not like it.” He subsequently cut off all communications with me refusing to speak to me or cooperate in any way. It was, in fact, a respectful consideration of that admonition that delayed the continuance and completion of this work for over 10 years.
Alene had loved Lucien Carr up to her death and she had insisted throughout the whole 11 years of her relationship with Carr that he was to be considered and treated by me as a ‘father figure.’ Despite the sense of an imperative to tell Alene’s story before all of the live sources disappeared, the need to respect Lucien Carr’s request weighed so heavily that only after ten years of wandering in the academic wilderness, and as many years of therapeutic purgings, and the study of African American and female writers, and a consideration of the feminist writings about women who never became writers—who were lost forever in time by history, only after the weight of considering all of these perspectives – could I decide to go forward with a history of Alene. To disobey one’s ‘father’ is not a step taken lightly, particularly when the price you will pay is the complete and total loss of that father’s consideration, if not love.
In light of such an active disapproval by Lucien Carr (who had been involved with Lee up to one month prior to her cancer diagnosis in 1989) and in view of a previous strongly stated desire for anonymity by Alene herself, the reader may wonder why then I reveal ‘Mardou’s’ identity, her thoughts, and her involvement with Kerouac, Burroughs, and Carr? Is there big money in it? Will it arouse the interest of tabloids? Is it a vendetta and attempt to cast Alene in a “Mommy Dearest” light or Carr in a classic spoiled rich boy goes bad black hat? No. It is quite simply an attempt to put Alene back into the literary history of that time and to enhance the beat history that Kerouac himself had attempted to tell—to chronicle the times, and at least one more of the lively characters that lived in those times.
Alene was a part of the beat history, who, though she never claimed to be a great writer like Kerouac, deserves at least her footnote* in the literary records, if not more. In the spirit of Joyce Glassman Johnson’s Minor Characters, this is the attempt to fill in a blank spot that others have happily allowed to remain blank.
To put it bluntly, an intellectual black and indigenous woman actually existed and was formative in the creation of at least one of the works of what some may call a great American writer. Kerouac was not well known for his collegial or intellectual relations with women and minorities and his depiction of Alene, while it honored her intelligence, mostly portrayed Alene through his lens—that of a male sexual appetite. Not only Kerouac but Carr, Ginsberg, and Burroughswere men focused in large part on their own talents and worth, not the talents of what they called their “old ladies,” or whatever women they were then ‘involved’ with. The ‘old ladies’ were generally expected to “keep their mouth[s] shut” and to exude an ornamental aesthetic of beauty with which the men/writers could clothe themselves in public. A remarkable comment that Kerouac made to Allen Ginsberg exemplifies Jack’s deepest feelings about women. Kerouac said, “I only fuck girls and I learn from men.” (Barry Miles, p 131) Largely touted as a cultural rebel, Kerouac was in fact a member of an exclusive clique with distinctively male privilege.
One of this group was author William Burroughs – the eldest of the literary trio, an heir to the Burroughs fortune,and a Harvard graduate. Another, Lucien Carr, a privileged trust fund child and Columbia University student was the first of the three to formulate the idea of a ‘new vision’ literature that inspired Kerouac. Carr was a Rockefeller relative, and both he and Burroughs were the life-long recipients of trust funds and economic security. Burroughs, from the ivy walled towers of Harvard and Carr, Kerouac, and Ginsberg from the prestigious halls of Columbia University—these three were a male literary and social clique that accepted women as bit players but not as minds to be reckoned with. Kerouac and Ginsberg, though from working and middle class white families, ultimately became powerful literary and cultural icons (often credited with or blamed for, depending on perspective, the onset of the 60s hippie rejections of middle class mores and cultural status quo). And while both helped spawn the ‘revolutionary’ cultural conversion to ‘free sex’ and drug use as norms for the theoretical seeking of alternate/creative mind states in the 1950s and 60s, neither Kerouac or Ginsberg crossed the cultural race barriers that were being torn down by black civil rights activists in meaningful ways. They listened to black poet LeRoi Jones, now Amiri Baraka, and to black jazz musicians like Elvin Jones, and they slept with the occasional black woman, but they never had serious long term involvements or friendships with them. Kerouac, in particular, never intellectually collaborated with female or black writers, though he was an avid admirer of black bebop, jive, and jazz music. His relationships with women and minorities (infrequent) were mostly sexual. Women, blacks, and Native Americans were ancillary to the ‘great myths’ about himself and his friends that Kerouac felt he was destined to write. They were as unimportant to Kerouac as they have traditionally been to the literary academy and the annals of the Great Dead White Men.
But a black and Native American woman named Alene Lee did exist during that same time and place in the 1950s and 60s. She did influence Kerouac, Carr, and Ginsberg. She did write.And, finally, it may be said, she did die still in love with at least one of these men (Carr), and in friendship with another (Ginsberg—who was with her when she died at Lenox Hill Hospital in 1991). Without her person being reinserted into the Beat Generation, what is at stake is the commodification of that history, a portrait with no black or indigenous females in the picture. Without Alene Lee perspective, Kerouac and Ginsberg remain more heroically palatable and more mythic literary figures than they actually were. Ignoring her perspective and writings or leaving them buried comes at the cost of ignoring certain harms that Kerouac, Ginsberg, Carr and others inflicted on the lesser known members of their beat generation. Ignoring her also comes at the cost of deleting one of the few recorded recollections of the beats as men and artists written by a black and native American woman of that period.
This African and Native American woman lived, breathed, loved, lost, learned, interacted with, fought with, and wrote about Jack Kerouac and other ‘beats’ of that time as well. This is the beginning of an attempt to place that woman—Alene Lee—back into the historical texts. It is the attempt to shed light on another perspective about Kerouac and his peers. It is the attempt to give voice to Alene Lee feelings and thoughts about having been immortalized as Mardou in Kerouac’s The Subterraneans. And finally, it is the attempt of a daughter to fulfill her promise to a dying woman to help keep her alive.
Thank you for this fascinating glimpse at Alene. Are you writing a book? I’m very interested in knowing more about her life and perspectives as a black woman in a moment of cultural and social change in upheaval — one who defined herself and set her own path through all of this. It would be a great help in expanding the view on race,gender and the beats.
I am attempting to write one.
Have a thesis so far.
Are you a student or teacher?
CHRISTINA JOHN MITCHELL JR HERE GAS LIGHT CAFE N.Y ( JOSHUAJARED49@YAHOO.COM
I just found this page.
Where are you?
I just read The Subterraneans for the first time and am fascinated by the figure of Mardou Fox. It is wonderful to know a tiny bit of who this very interesting individual was. I hope that her writings are published, or will be and that more of this important woman can be made public.
Thank you for your encouragement.
Alene was a fascinating woman and I hope some publisher might be willing to take her out of the footnotes and put her back onto the pages of the Beat history.
Pay dirt! I’ve been obsessed w/ anything Kerouac my entire adult life. After reading Joyce Johnson’s “Minor Characters” I took the time to peruse the Internet & found this fantastic piece by her daughter. Gracias to Christina & Beatdom.
Thank you for your kind response and interest in Alene.
I hope that more might be written about her.
This is absolutely brilliant. The apparently periphery appearance of Alene Lee in ‘The Subterraneans’ without ever being formally mentioned again has always been a mystery to me, especially since there were very intelligent women companions of the Beats (such as Joan Vollmer and Carolyn Cassady). It seems impossible that someone who could inspire such a great novella – however factually incorrect it is – could just disappear. I want more of Alene’s writing! I hope you can publish a book or some of her own work. We’d love to hear more about the famed “queen of the Subterraneans”.
Thank you for this, it is inspiring! please do update this page when your book becomes available.
I am a massive kerouac fan, but, as a woman, find his depictions of female characters problematic.
I am currently writing my dissertation on this subject, and am focussing largely on the character of Mardou Fox. The little that I do know about your mother I find amazing! I will be quoting this article in my dissertation, and will do my best to promote the idea that Kerouac’s depiction of her is very inaccurate!
Best of luck with your book, I am so excited about it!
ann charters will have a comment on the article by christina in the upcoming issue, Beatdom 11…
Christina, I wrote you awhile bcd in response to this wonderful article. I am am a etcher and involved with the arts for many years. I hope your book is coming along and that you’ve found interest from a publisher. If you’re planning a reading or a lecture. Please keep me on your mailing list.
Linda, Chris, and Amy, I have had cancer and a surgery on my pancreas and haven’t been on this site for some time. Thank you for your interest. I have been offered the opportunity to publish on-line, but have had no other contact with publishers. I am a bit of a hermit and don’t really know much about contacting publishers, although I am now working with a Yale Phd to scan and save Alene’s over 1000 pages of writings. Hope it leads to something. Thank you for your interest!
I am sorry to hear about your health issues. I hope that treatment has been successful and you are well on your way to full recovery.
I just discovered this article and Alene’s work. I hope that you have picked up writing about your mother again and will publish her work. I loved reading “Sisters”!
I don’t know what I can do to help but if there is anything please somehow let me know. Barring that please do keep me on your mailing list. Her contributions and writing cannot be erased from history. Alene’s voice is sorely needed in these times.
Wishing you all the best in all your endeavors and continued good health!
(PS. and ignore the racist comments of some ignorant people)
I hope you are well and was very sorry to read about your illness. Your words about your mother Alene were extremely moving, and I hope that you will write the full story about her life, which is so important and so long overdue.
I am writing a long piece about your father, John, who was a friend of my father’s (the late Rev. Robert Spike, minister at Judson Church) and then mine over many decades, from the late 1940s until I last saw him in Bisbee, AZ.
I would like very much to be in touch with you. I live in London in the UK, but please do send me an email to the address given.
With all best wishes,
so Lee screwed Kerouac, ginsberg, corso, Carr, Al aronivitz,that we know about but she’s not a groupie with jungle fever?
These pages are a revelation. Thank you Christina.
Hi Christina. August 18th birthday, right. The same as mine. You and my daughter
Betsy went to the nursery school in the Village.. Greenwich House. Alene and I were
good friends. I loved her and thought her brilliant….what a spirit she was! I’ve often
wondered what happened to her. I visited her once when she first got together with
Lucien and then I left for the West Coast; have been painting in Vermont for years.
Love to you and Betsy and I will be in NYC the 16th, 17th and 18th, of Jan. Betsy is
visiting from Alaska where she is a successful potter. I’m so glad you’re setting the
record straight about Alene.
Dear Betsy’s mom, I rarely use the internet and just saw your post today on my cousin Vannie’s computer. I would love to meet with you sometime and talk about Alene and Betsy! My mother remembered your phone number, if it is the same Betsy I am remembering. Did she come back to the city as a teenager? Please call me at 518 847 5873 or email me at my cousin’s email address. Hope you get this message!!!!!! Hope all is well!!!!!!!!
Believe what you like. Everyone alive who knew Alene knows that I am her daughter, as additionally attested to by my birth certificate. Alene was not a drug addict. She died of lung cancer at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. You are right that she was not just a “sex object” to Kerouac, that was an overreaction and an over simplification on my part to his subsequent behavior towards her. Do some research and I am sure you can now find third party verification of Alene’s role in Beat history and my relationship with her. Calling people drug addicts is not a good way to open a conversation with the daughter of that same person. Good luck to you.
My interest in Alene Lee results from my earlier interest in the lives and works of Rev. Robert Warren Spike and Rev. Pierre Delattre from an article in Time magazine, June 29th, 1959, and their missions to the beat artistic communities in Greenwich Village and North Beach. As a teen I hitchhiked to San Francisco to meet the “Beatnik Priest” (Pierre Delattre) at his Bread and Wine Mission and have more recently visited him at his art gallery in Taos, NM, (go to: ortenstonedelattre.com ). Had Bob Spike lived longer I’m sure I would have introduced myself to him as well. In 1960 when The Subterraneans was put to film I had days before its release a spiritual experience of a vision and a feeling of a presence that rocked me out of my atheism but when I tried to share that experience with my father, an ordained Congregational pastor, I got no response nor satisfaction from that attempted “sharing”. Thus it was that I then thumbed to California from Minn. to meet Pierre for perhaps a better sharing. As time passed I read The Subterraneans and only recently saw the film version for the first time. Then came my interest in all the characters in both the book and the film and the real life persons the characters were based on. The real life persons is my greater interest and thanks to the internet and sites like Wikipedia much of that can be satisfied. One in particular so far in my reading is to know the life experience of Gregory Corso (Yuri in the book and film). Now I’m excited to realize we might soon be able to read Christina Diamente’s book about her mother and Alene Lee’s own words and poems. Have to say I was not impressed with Kerouac’s Subterraneans, neither book nor film. The only real good thing about the film is the sound track which I’m listening to as I write this on Juneteenth 2021. Three times in the book reference is made to Gerry Mulligan and then the man himself is a jazz sax playing clergy in the film inspired by the being of Pierre Delattre. Thought there could have been more made of that character (my hero), his Mission and the poetry published in the Beatitude mimeographings of 1959-60. So, from here on I’ll continue my interest in the real life persons and their real lives fictionalized in The Subterraneans. For anyone else serious about doing the same an adjacent could be to read Robert Spike’s 1961 book, To Be A Man and visit his mission to the beats church, Judson Memorial Church. Their online service tomorrow is on Juneteenth. I only request to be among those alerted when Christina’s book on her mother is available and from where. We’ll be among the first to order our copies!
Meagre about the Mardou-conection
The -subtrerranieans was the first novel I read by Jack Kerouac. I read it in the end of the eighties and have after that read the book a couple of times. All with the same feeling of flow and aliveness. Of the striving with a relationship that from the beginning bear the mark of it’s impossibility. A description of an impossible relationship, a passion that could not endure the everyday life.
It is true that Kerouac have a shallow description of woman and the blacks in his books. His main focus (thus he’s not properly aware of it when writing) is to let forward the manly gay culture. To free America from it’s neurosis about homosexuality. Most of his friends are homosexual and bisexual. And the description about Neal Cassady is close to a description of a lover – or at least panegyrical. Himself, he is stubbornly heterosexual. At least he tell us time after time about his strong maleness – as if he really wasn’t sure.
But Jack Kerouac was also a heterosexual with great problem to endure in a close relationships with women. He bear clearly the signs of the patterns of the alcoholic: A close, not resolved relationship with the mother, and the next most close relationship with the drug (alcohol), and strong ambivalent relationship with women. He’s longing for them, but could not stay to leave with them – and when Neal at last settle down to live a normal life with Carolyn, Kerouac come to live with them and make there life more complicated than they can bear. And it contribute to the fall of Neal Cassady and the subsequent fall in to the life of a drug addict.
Well, Christina Diamentes story about Alene Lee is interesting but include nothing of what we already know. Noting about how she lived, what she worked with, where she lived, if she got children (beside the supposed connection between Christina herself, as a supposed daughter to Alene, which I don’t believe is true at al) and how it would have been to live together with a white man (Lucien Carr). It most have been very problematic in the sixties! Under the civil right movement and the forthcoming racial fights. Nothing of that are we told.
We are told hat Alene has an IQ of about 160! But what did she do with her intellectual heritage? Did she have some use of it? Did she work a a professor? Teacher? No, nothing… Probably was she a drug addict (as Kerouac) and died as a result of it.
I also don’t agree with Christina that Alene only was a sex object for Jack Kerouac. The first thing that Leo Percepied wonder when he sees Alene is “what books does she read”. And in the subsequent story we are told that she is going in psychoanalysis (which at that time was very unusual) and very brave – and surely costs a lot of money, so Alene was surely a wealthy person, or at least has some money to pay the psychoanalyst. Where did she get them from?
No, I don’t believe that Christina Diamentes was the daughter to Alene Lee and I also does not think that Alene left 1000 pages of unpublished material (maybe unpublishable). I think that this link between Christina and Alene is bogus and a fake. But it would have been interesting to have a true story about this mythical figure from the annals of the beat generation, this mythical Alene Lee; who we all fell in love in, when we read about her.
Sven, I knew Alene and Christina in the 1980s when they had a business on 14th street in NYC. They were most definitely mother and daughter. Christina, I had no idea you were pursuing writing. I am happy for you and encourage you.
Allen Ginsberg revealed her identity in the marginalia to his 1953 photo of her and Burroughs. So much for contractual stipulations . . .
I find a number of details about this article problematic, one of which (for someone presumably with first-hand information) turns to a Kerouac biography as a rush to judgment concerning Kerouac’s relationship, or lack thereof, to women.
The April 6 comment makes some strong points. Much of this article’s real estate is taken up chastising Charters and Kerouac instead of demonstrating with hard evidence any of Alene Lee’s intellectual efforts that kept her neck-to-neck with Kerouac, Carr and the rest. What a way to disprove the “beat groupie” label, but by revealing whatever it was that biographers got wrong all of these years.
Kerouac being sexist or a complete failure outside of the success of some of his books is just not that interesting and just not the point. It also downplays the actual work and the real genius it requires to write and publish substantial amounts of literature. We’re expected to think so much about people who were minor characters because of the sexism or racism of the main figures. This is just not reasonable. We can talk about Joyce Johnson and Carolyn Cassady because THEY WROTE and published significant books about the Beat Generation. They did work. No one was ever stopping any of these male or female minor characters from becoming great artists or components of the Beat Generation. Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac are famous and treasured because they sat down at tables and wrote and wrote. With Kerouac’s background, do grown adults actually think that becoming the writer he did was “culturally” handed to him?? Can people even fathom the actual amount of work and self-doubt and failure and friction and periods of hell these three went through to first write their works . . . and then do people not understand that their eventual high evaluation in our culture was in no way a given or handed to them and is kind of incredible? The Beat Generation is just not likely! The fact that it happened and that these works of art are available and celebrated is nothing short of a MIRACLE.
Very interesting info on here in this piece, I hope the author is still alive and has found a source for publishing the work of a person who sounds very interesting.
Maybe you’re a guy and therefore anything that depicts the terrible behaviour of men ‘is not that interesting’ to YOU. It’s definitely extremely interesting and the point to everyone else. Remember, these boys lived with the richness around them but chose to impose the straight white male gaze anyway, all the while pretending to be intellectuals or even spiritually enlightened. That’s a massive problem. I know that Ginsberg was a friend to Alene but I find him, especially, very problematic and yet he is probably the writer I find the most inspiring.
Yes, the ‘spirit’ of the beat generation is important but any black or minority person and especially woman who is reading something by Kerouac isn’t going to overlook the racism and misogyny. It stands out like a sore thumb. It’s impossible to do so when we are depicted as the ‘other’. ‘On the Road’ is insanely male gaze in which minorities are there to bring his novel exoticness, strangeness or sexual experiences but the white men get to be people. You can shut that off because you’re not one of the minorities he writes about. Any unexperienced country boy is going to think these works are incredible because they aren’t the ones being othered. It’s nice that you are only interested in his motivation as a writer and what writers suffer through but the image of the starving artist suffering for his art doesn’t hit the mark when he is in charge of the image of certain women like Alene and he was also treating women badly.
I write so I do get it, it’s hard to keep going and yes having money doesn’t mean you feel motivated or that you will succeed but it goes a long way. There is no way we can write about the beats without acknowledging their privilege or their very troubled characters which seep into their work. I am tired of women being written out of history and being trapped without choice in the dull imaginations of otherwise decent writers.
Christine, I am your old Aunt Stevie (and alternate godmother), who lost your contact information after your mother passed away so many years ago.
I don’t know if you still read these comments, but if you do, please contact me at SusanLawrence@ail.com.
I read The Subterraneans 43 years ago. As a teenager, it seemed to me a template of intoxicating love. Of course, as an adult who has lived through a love relationship or three, one revises that notion as, “Kerouac was a real asshole.” But that’s not why I’m writing: I was happy to see that Arlene Lee had written. Has her papers been organized? Does she have a book? Will her voice, which she hoped to be remain alive, be heard?
I think I speak for more than just myself when I say we’re still interested in seeing more about Alene/Arlene.
If there’s anything any of is can do to facilitate publishing Alene/Arlene’s works, please let us know. I’m not in publishing, but maybe we can all get together to gofund a private publication?
I hope your health is improving!
Arlene Lee was discussed at the Instagram page @womenofthebeatgeneration. I’m also fascinated in her story (which means I’ve got to read The Subterraneans, I guess). Christina, we are somewhat contemporaries, I was born on W 11th and went to Greenwich House, Downtown Community School and PS 41, 1953-60. As with other commentors, I hope you are well-
Hello Christina, are you still around? I’m writing up your mother’s wikipedia page and I’d like to know if you could confirm you’re alright with it and if there’ anything you want me to add or remove? I’m especially interested in her actual work – her novels, poems, whatever she did. That doesn’t seem to be available and I am struggling to add anything to the ‘career’ section at this point.
This is 2023, and I am only finding this out so late. Sadly. Dear Ms. Christina… wow.. this is incredible… I pray you are better, healed and embraced your powerful ancestor / ancestors / heritage / ferocious background… and researching it more and more.. Please forgive my comment, but have you contacted CALEB CARR? He lives in upstate NY. I am sure it is easy to find him… just for the record … maybe there are stories / info / unknown. I have found through being a researcher on my parents Holocaust past.. that hearing stories from another person… a RASHOMEN, sort of pathway…. various stories from various perspectives… who knows.. forgive me.. just a footnote.. There is so much to this story… but your mom.. that is the CORE, not KEROAC.. nope.. YOUR MOM is a powerful force… because she was so protective of her love interest.. of this being.. but moreso her INTEGRITY.. she showed her integrity, her raw authenticity and morality, to not make the 15 min of fame game… I hope and pray the work of ALINE LEE is shared with the world… young people need to know the truth and the other side… for her time, her placement in history is not invisible.. but is incarnating… step by step by step… It is powerful what your mom said at the end… and I can only say this from a quote from ELIE WEISEL: “ART MEANS TO SAY NO TO DEATH. the artist is able to defeat god thru his art.. the immortality of his art” and you are doing this.. with getting her work out. As an older writer.. still struggling with money / life to get my work out… i keep this quote near me… I will keep writing no matter how much rejection, and invisibility, etc… even death… as THAT is what endures… I pray you get a book out / her work / her words… she evoked a powerful time.. where a Black woman was more much much more than what the society allowed for….