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Catalog Archive / Spring 2021

Loving before Loving
A Marriage in Black and White

Finalist of the 2021 Sarton Memoir Award, sponsored by the Story Circle Network.

Winner of the 2022 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Book Award

“This intimate, brave memoir is also one that many women will recognize as their own: a lifetime spent trying to heal others and the world, only to discover one must start with oneself.”
—Robin Morgan, editor of Sisterhood Is Powerful

Committed to the struggle for civil rights, in the late 1950s Joan Steinau marched and protested as a white ally and young woman coming to terms with her own racism. She fell in love and married a fellow activist, the Black writer Julius Lester, establishing a partnership that was long and multifaceted but not free of the politics of race and gender. As the women's movement dawned, feminism helped Lester find her voice, her pansexuality, and the courage to be herself.

Braiding intellectual, personal, and political history, Lester tells the story of a writer and activist fighting for love and justice before, during, and after the Supreme Court's 1967 decision striking down bans on interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia. She describes her own shifts in consciousness, from an activist climbing police barricades by day and reading and writing late into the night to a woman navigating the coming-out process in midlife, before finding the publishing success she had dreamed of. Speaking candidly about every facet of her life, Lester illuminates her journey to fulfillment and healing.


Joan Lester. Photo credit, Irene Young. Joan Steinau Lester is an award-winning commentator, columnist, and author of critically acclaimed books, including Mama's Child and Black, White, Other. Her writing has appeared in such publications as USA Today, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Cosmopolitan, and Huffington Post.

Joan Steinau Lester's Website -

Joan Steinau Lester's Blog -




“This book is the real deal, the way it was. A good book for folks to grow on. I love it! Bravo!”
—Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Color Purple

“Exceptional. It is a real challenge to write a memoir that is intellectually deep, psychologically sophisticated, and politically principled that is also engaging, accessible, funny, and tender. Loving before Loving certainly is all that. What a remarkable ride.”
—Becky Thompson, author of A Promise and a Way of Life

“Dr. Lester is a storyteller who weaves notable civil rights leaders, historical events, and personal memories that will keep you turning pages and will serve as a model for the challenge of the diversity, equity and inclusion work that continues to this day.”
Story Circle Book Reviews



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May 2021
LC: 2020035445 PS
256 pp. 6 x 9
22 b/w illus.

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Cloth $26.95
ISBN 9780299331009
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