Aunt Lute Books would like to take a moment outside our everyday busy publishing schedule to remember and honor literary activist Pat Holt, who died on December 3, 2022.
Pat Holt was known as a fierce and fearless editor, a woman of unflinching integrity with a passion for literature, writers, independent bookstores, and social justice. That active concern for social justice publishing, underpinned with her generous spirit—evidenced throughout her life—is the main reason Aunt Lute Books could become the non-profit radical feminist publisher we are today.
In the late 1980’s Pat organized a fund-raising committee that raised over $50,000 to support Aunt Lute’s transition into its non-profit incarnation as The Aunt Lute Foundation, doing business as Aunt Lute Books. This meant we could pursue grants and private funding to underpin our mission of publishing new writers from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Without Pat’s effort, it is doubtful we would have come into being—let alone still be in business 40 years from our founding.
A few years after her fundraising success on our behalf, Pat came to us to suggest another project which resulted in the publication of "Alice Walker Banned" (Aunt Lute Books, 1995). The book reproduces two of Walker’s short stories and a part of "The Color Purple" (an excerpt often used as a reason to ban that book from school libraries). Pat’s introduction, as relevant today as it was in 1995, tells the story of how conservatives in California were able get two of Walker’s most interesting stories, “Roselily” and “Am I Blue,” removed from California’s literature-based assessment test—originally meant to make testing less biased towards white middle class students. But the radical right was having none of that equity program, especially if it included Walker’s work.
Pat’s lucid and wry introduction to the book—along with her traveling to New York to obtain permission from Harcourt Brace & Company to reproduce Walker’s pieces—were two more instances of her willingness to help independent publishing. And to strike a blow against the banning of books and for freedom of expression in general.
We at Aunt Lute think of her with enormous gratitude. And we extol her for her fierce life-long battle to sustain the integrity of publishing. She was a true friend and activist, and we will miss her.Excerpts from her obituary printed in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Pat began her publishing career in the New York and Boston offices of Houghton Mifflin Company in 1969. In 1978 she became Publishers Weekly's first full-time Western correspondent, single-handedly lifting a small alternative publishing scene into a publishing mecca that forced the New York publishing establishment to not only pay attention, but to change: no small feat. She joined the San Francisco Chronicle in February 1982, and for just under 17 years she was the book editor and critic at the newspaper and head of the stand-alone Book Review section, where she wrote a weekly column called Between the Lines. Packed with publishing industry news, the column championed local authors and independent bookstores and railed against the rise of Amazon, which threatened their existence. Pat brought national prestige to the Book Review and helped authors like Amy Tan and Anne Lamott get noticed by the East Coast-dominated literary world.