I Lay This Body Down

The Transatlantic Life of Rosey E. Pool

I Lay This Body Down

The Transatlantic Life of Rosey E. Pool

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  • Reviews

Rosey E. Pool (1905-71) did not live an ordinary life. She witnessed the rise of the Nazis in Berlin firsthand, tutored Anne Frank, operated in a Jewish resistance group, escaped from a Nazi transit camp, published African American poets in Europe, operated a London "salon" with her partner, witnessed independence movements in Nigeria and Senegal, and took part in the American civil rights movement. I Lay This Body Down is the first study of Pool and her remarkable transatlantic life.

A translator, educator, and anthologist of African American poetry, Pool corresponded, after World War II, with Langston Hughes, W. E. B. Du Bois, Naomi Long Madgett, Owen Dodson, Gordon Heath, and others who fostered her involvement in the Black Arts Movement, both in Britain and the United States. Though Pool was often cast as an outsider-one poet was amazed that "one so removed" was interested in the Black cause-she saw herself as part of a transatlantic struggle against oppression. For Pool, the "yellow Jew stars" the Nazis forced her to wear "were our darker skins."

Rosey E. Pool's life allows Lonneke Geerlings to explore intersections of European and American history. As a Holocaust survivor and activist fighting against segregation in the Deep South, Pool connects stories that are often studied and told in isolation. Her life helps us understand the intersecting histories of Jewish Europe and Black America, but it also allows us to see how Pool dealt with tragedy, trauma, and loss. At its core, this book is about resilience and hope. Indeed, Pool's life illuminates the power of reinvention for dealing with both challenging personal circumstances and the traumas of global history.

The transnational quality of the career chronicled here poses a real challenge to the researcher, and Lonneke Geerlings has met it with startling critical acumen and a deeply affecting personal tale.

—James Davis, author of Eric Walrond: A Life in the Harlem Renaissance and the Transatlantic Caribbean

I Lay This Body Down reconstructs the life of a neglected but very interesting Dutch woman whose activities and networks spanned parts of Western Europe and the North Atlantic. This is the rare book that illuminates how Europeans engaged with segregation and civil rights in the United States.

—Mary Nolan, author of The Transatlantic Century: Europe and America, 1890–2010

This book brings Dutch Jew Rosey E. Pool, who has slipped through the cracks of history, to life. We are offered a deft picture of her multiple incarnations and her activities in various social movements, meanwhile also receiving information on Dutch society in the 1950s, especially its views and practices on race.

—Gloria Wekker, author of White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race

Rare are the stories that draw together Anne Frank and Langston Hughes, Dutch resistance to the Nazis, and civil rights activism at historically Black colleges and universities in America's Deep South. In this remarkable and lucid biography, Geerlings introduces readers to Rosey E. Pool, following the activist-anthologist from Amsterdam to America, London to Lagos, as seemingly separate streams of twentieth-century history converge into one most improbable life. A brilliant contribution to the study of intersecting Jewish and African American diaspora experiences.

—Shaul Kelner, author of Tours That Bind: Diaspora, Pilgrimage, and Israeli Birthright Tourism

I Lay This Body Down is a suspenseful and gripping biography of one of the twentieth century's most fascinating figures. Lonneke Geerlings's meticulously researched and marvelously paced narrative rescues from obscurity Rosey E. Pool's remarkable, hybrid life. Through the eyes and exploits of this queer, monocle-wearing, antifascist champion of African American literature, the history of the twentieth century is revealed anew. As a history of resistance. As a history of alliances between the oppressed. As a minoritarian history. As a counterhistory.

—Diarmuid Hester, author of Wrong: A Critical Biography of Dennis Cooper

About the Author/Editor

LONNEKE GEERLINGS is an independent researcher and a Policy Officer at Stichting UvO who took her Ph.D. from Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. She lives on the North Sea coast in the Netherlands.