Review: James McConkey

402 Aiken Rd.

Trumansburg, NY 14886 12 Feb 2013

Dear Anita,

If you’ve listened to the messages on your cell phone, you know how much Ithaca Diaries moved me. And, as I may have said, it had an after-effect on me: in looking at undergraduates in restaurants and elsewhere, I felt I had a new understanding of their anxieties and desires.

In trying to explain to myself—the 91-year-old reader of your MSS—the effect it had on me, I think much of it comes from what seems to be the integrity of the writing: deeply personal though it is, you constantly look at yourself without any kind of self-deception—you’re truthful about your wishes, desires, fears and everything that makes up the complexity of a human being, especially of a young woman caught up in the chaos and threats and violence of a university (and the world beyond it) at a crucial time of change. Actually, you seem to be looking at yourself objectively, as if you were a character in a play or novel. This permits a reader to feel empathy for you, as representative of her/him. And, like the changes that come to a character in a fictional narrative, there’s a progression in you, in your growing confidence, in your self-reliance. What a plucky young woman you were in the summer of 1969, despite all that’s happening. Your description both of your decision to lose your virginity and of the consequences of the actual act are especially moving.

As you may or may not know, I was a member of the Faculty Committee on Student Affairs, and at the very end (after its conservative members had resigned) the chair of that committee. But how naïve I was, as to the motives of the black leadership! Maybe, as a member of Dorothy McCall’s class, you were less naïve than I, and had some idea of the revolutionary tactics they employed. Though it’s never been acknowledged in public, I’m fairly certain that black males put and lit the cross on the lawn before the black women’s residence, and also burned down their own Wait Avenue center. In other words, they were trying to intensify the racial dislikes and animosities. I assume they wished to destroy the university itself. Do the ends ever justify the means? To me this is a betrayal of human trust.

Yours is a remarkable achievement, and I’m now awaiting publication of Ithaca Diaries.

Congratulations, and with affection,



Coming of Age in the 1960s