College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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beats, Joyce Johnson, Hettie Jones, Brenda Frazer, Diane DiPrima


“I became aware of a problem when I was introduced to the Beats. I thought, ‘Where are the women? There must be some.’ There were, of course, but that notion required some digging, for these women are often only mentioned briefly when reading of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and William Burroughs. However, while frequently overlooked or forgotten, the women of the Beat generation have made a public name for themselves after the time of the movement. Embracing and gaining insight from their past experiences, writers Diane diPrima, Brenda Frazer (formerly known as Bonnie Bremser), Joyce Johnson, and Hettie Jones formed a personal artistic resurgence and Beat revivial in the form of memoir. I have chosen to examine their four memoirs written after the rise of the Beats: diPrima’s Memoirs of a Beatnik and Frazer’s Troia: Mexican Memoris, (both published in 1969), Johnson’s Minor Characters (1983), and Jones’ How I Became Hettie Jones (1990). These works spand decades and are, of course, unique to the author’s life, but ultimately tell similar tales. Compiled, these works form a textual community-exposing collective memories and establishing a publicly creative presence. These works share common themes and events but there is one over-arching message that shines: women Beats yearned for self-expression during the artistic movement that shaped their histories and it is not until they were away from male influence that they could accomplish this; while they may have once been silent, they formed a significant literary community and wrote themselves to the front of the memoir genre years later. For these women, the memoir was a form of release, and their works are textual forms of both creative expression and criticism.”