Why is the book taking so long?

An excellent and reasonable question. I’m sure many of you are wondering. Haven’t people – primarily me (Susan Lamont) and Ann – been working on this for years? And, particularly for those who have donated, you’re owed an explanation.

For those who have known Ann for decades, I don’t think I’m telling tales out of school when I say that Ann was her own worst enemy when it came to finishing projects. There was always another idea or better word out there if we just gave it more time. As I read her what I’d written, she’d say, “That’s not the right word.” I’d say, “But it’s your word.” She’d say, “But it’s not the right word, though I don’t know what the right word is.”

I have found many letters in Ann’s archives announcing that a book was almost finished – dated 1978, dated 1979, dated 1980……but that book remains unfinished, in many versions, in many binders, almost all of them undated. Ann said she wanted to write three books, in addition to the book on Chinese posters, which I’m sure was completed because of persistence by author Lincoln Cushing. The other three were never finished or never started.

And, oh, those archives. Ann and I went through what was in her apartment: file cabinets filled to the brim, stacks of papers on shelves behind curtains and so many bankers boxes of material that kept emerging from closets and under the bed like clowns climbing from a clown car at the circus. She would let me throw away almost nothing and sometimes I took to spiriting papers to the garbage when she was sleeping. But I did find family letters she had never read and was able to tell her family stories she’d never heard. Now, that was fun!

We spent the last several months of her life rehashing the episodes of her life that had given her life its meaning, primarily the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. And trying to fill in gaps from other period of her life was not as successful. I felt that I was more companion than author. But that was what she needed at the time.

Since her death, her archive has been moved to my garage (see photo) – 13 stuffed file drawers and 22 boxes, some of which appeared from storage that I’d never seen. So now I’m doing what should have happened the first go round, I’m throwing things away. Sigh.

And a mea culpa – I am doing this as a part time project, while continuing other part time work and lots of work as a political activist, who takes breaks to visit family members in the East, Northwest and Europe. And there have been a few health issue diversions along the way.

But a third of the chapters have been written. After this archive culling is over, the writing will resume. The goal is to have it finished by the end of the year. The book is a compilation of those other books she wanted to write, though much more a biography than the call to arms for some U.S. variation of Mao Tse-tung thought. It will include much about her mother; one of the books she wanted to write. But it won’t be what she would have written and will be far from perfect in her eyes. But it will cover the many facets of one woman’s fascinating life. And I hope it will have been worth the wait.


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