Lester, Joan Steinau 1940–
Lester, Joan Steinau 1940–
PERSONAL: Born 1940; married (divorced); partner's name Carole; children: two. Education: Antioch College, Ed.D., 1962.
CAREER: Equity Institute, Emeryville, CA, founder and exectutive director for sixteen years; Equity Consulting Group, Emeryville, coach and facilitator; Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Squaw Valley, CA, writing coach. Former associate, Progressive Media Project, Madison, WI.
AWARDS, HONORS: Siegenthaler Award, National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, 1996, for best commentary on National Public Radio.
The Future of White Men and Other Diversity Dilemmas, Conari Press (Berkeley, CA), 1994.
Taking Charge: Every Woman's Action Guide to Personal, Political, and Professional Success, foreword by Eleanor Holmes Norton, Conari Press (Berkeley, CA), 1996.
Contributor to periodicals, including Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, and Black Issues in Higher Education, and to radio programs, including National Public Radio's All Things Considered.
SIDELIGHTS: Writer, editor and commentator Joan Steinau Lester was a strong voice in the feminist movement of the late twentieth century, as well as an activist for civil rights. In 1968, Lester attended the first Women's Liberation Conference in Chicago as a representative of the New York City-based group New Women. She earned her doctorate in multicultural education, going on to co-found and serve as executive director of the Equity Institute, an organization based in Amherst, Massachusetts, and later in Emeryville, California, that worked to promote equal rights for all ethnic groups and embraced diversity. When the Institute developed into the Equity Consulting Group, Lester continued her association, working as a coach and facilitator. Lester has been a regular guest speaker at conferences and universities, including the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Hewlett-Packard Women's Technical Conference, the National Organization for Women, the National Education Association, and Stanford and Harvard universities. In her personal life, Lester practices what she preaches. When she and her former husband—a black man—married, interracial marriage was still illegal in twenty-seven states. After divorcing, Lester chose to live with a woman as her life partner.
In The Future of White Men and Other Diversity Dilemmas Lester collects a number of her previously published articles on multiculturalism, and the role of diversity in the United States. She focuses on how to handle difficult cultural situations, both personally and in the workplace, and on the need for various minority groups to unite in their fight to attain better social legislation and corporate policies. While a reviewer for Publishers Weekly found Lester's observations "superficial," Lynn Wenzel, in a piece for Belle Lettres, remarked that "Lester raises consciousness with humor, irony, and a maternal touch." However, the critic continued, "underneath that smile is a serious commitment to a future that, writes Lester, 'is on its way, a future in which history blends with herstory and theirstory to truly become our story.'" Ms. contributor Mary Andes found the volume "lacks a firm socio-historical analysis of the power inequalities that underlie racism, sexism, and homophobia," but concluded that the work is "full of remedies."
Fire in My Soul is the authorized biography of politician Eleanor Holmes Norton. Lester, acquainted with Norton as a fellow alumnus of Antioch College, traces Norton's life and accomplishments from her roots as a fourth-generation Washingtonian through her involvement in the civil rights movement that eventually led to her studying law, to the start of her political career and the intrusion of personal hurdles that included the birth of a daughter with Downs Syndrome and the end of her marriage. A reviewer for Washington Informer wrote that "the best biographies are … illuminatingly revelatory, and depending on the subject, often inspirational. This book … is a very good biography." The reviewer went on to comment that "the story is a skillful rendering of narrative, confessional, and interview techniques that created an interest in one's wanting to know more and more about this woman." Leland Ware, reviewing the book for the Washington Post Book World, called Fire in My Soul "an engaging narrative of the life and times of a remarkable individual."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Belles Lettres, fall, 1994, Lynn Wenzel, "Art Imitates Belief" review of The Future of White Men and Other Diversity Dilemmas, p. 33.
Black Issues Book Review, March-April, 2003, Tracy Grant, review of Fire in My Soul, p. 55.
Black Scholar, fall, 2003, Opal Palmer Adisa, review of Fire in My Soul, pp. 53-55.
Booklist, February 15, 1994, Caroline Andrew, review of The Future of White Men and Other Diversity Dilemmas, p. 1038; January 1, 2003, Vanessa Bush, review of Fire in My Soul, p. 816.
Campaigns and Elections, February, 2003, review of Fire in My Soul, p. 20.
Ebony, January, 2003, review of Fire in My Soul, p. 18.
Executive Female, November-December, 1996, Susan Tifft, review of Taking Charge: Every Woman's Action Guide to Personal, Political, and Professional Success, p. 69.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of Fire in My Soul, p. 1680.
Library Journal, November 1, 2002, Ann Burns, review of Fire in My Soul, p. 110.
Ms., May, 1994, Mary Andes, "Doing Diversity," review of The Future of White Men and Other Diversity Dilemmas, p. 77.
Publishers Weekly, January 31, 1994, review of The Future of White Men and Other Diversity Dilemmas, p. 69; December 9, 2002, review of Fire in My Soul, p. 75.
San Francisco Chronicle, April 8, 1994, Patricia Holt, "Plain Talk on Diversity Issues," p. C7.
Training and Development, November, 1994, Theresa Minton-Eversole, review of The Future of White Men and Other Diversity Dilemmas, pp. 61-62.
Washington Informer, March 26, 2003, "An Illuminating Look into the Life of Eleanor Holmes Norton," p. 20.
Washington Post Book World, February 5, 2003, Leland Ware, "A Life at the Forefront" review of Fire in My Soul, p. C4.
Women's Review of Books, May, 2004, Marie Shear, "Pepper in the Soup" review of Fire in My Soul, pp. 16-17.
Joan Lester Home Page, http://www.joanlester.com (February 9, 2005).
Simon and Schuster Web site, http://www.simonsays.com/ (February 9, 2005), "Joan Lester."