Introduction by Jonathan Ned Katz

Shai, Faith, Chairty.jpg

Left to right: Shai Holsaert, Faith Holsaert, and Charity Bailey.

Photo courtesy of Faith Holsaert

This long short story (80,000 words), set in the 1950s in progressive, literary Greenwich Village, subtly evokes the loving, conflicted, and ultimately thwarted intimacy between two women, one white and the other African American, as seen through the eyes of the white woman's smart, observant daughter. The three live together.

The story communicates the McCarthy-era fears, casual racism, and homophobic pressures of this particiular time and place (and as I personally recall them -- as a child I lived on the same street as Holsaert and knew her family).

The writer, Faith Holsaert, was raised with her sister Shai on Jane Street, in the Village, in a two-mother family by their Jewish birth mother, Eunice Holsaert, and Charity Bailey, their mother by affection. Bailey was the music teacher at the Little Red School House where Faith was enrolled, and Bailey later hosted a children's television show in New York City.


Eunice Holsaert.

Photo courtesy of Faith Holsaert

I also attended "Little Red," as we called this private "progressive school," and fondly remember gentle but firm "Charity" (we called most of our teachers by their first names). I recall her visiting my family, and discussing the history of Black spirituals with my father who knew much about African American history and culture. I also recall Charity radiating concern for and kindness toward young people, a kindness to which I especially responded.

I also remember coming home from one 1950s visit to Charity Bailey's and Eunice Holsaert's apartment and my mother asking, circumspectly, without explanation, how many beds there were. Annoyed at her prying suspicion, and her asking me to inform on a beloved teacher, I think I said: "Two." I understood vaguely, I think, that my mother was inquiring whether the two women slept together, and that, if true, this was bad. Like much fiction, "Chosen Girl" seemingly contains more than a few autobiographical elements.

Faith Holsaert has published numbers of stories and memoirs, mostly in small literary journals. “Chosen Girl” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. “Creekers” (fiction) won first place in the Kentucky Writers Coalition Competition, in 2004. That year, “Freedom Rider, circa 1993” (fiction) won third place in the Fugue Annual Contest in Prose. “History Dancing,” a memoir, appeared in the autumn of 2006, in a collection published by University of Iowa Press.

I highly recommend this sensitive, wonderfully written art about history. I'm also pleased to honor the memory of Charity Bailey, who, I like to think, had she lived into the present, could have understood our need to look back and specify what we see. "Chosen Girl" is also available in paginated form (48 pages) on the 2004 edition of the web publication The King's English (pages 7-55).

For those interested in learning more, Wayne State University Press published Ma Lineal: A Memoir of Race, Activism, and Queer Family by Faith S. Holsaert in 2024. Her papers can be found at Duke University Archives and Manuscripts. See also: 

Cheryl Greenberg, editor, A Circle of Trust: Remembering SNCC (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1998).

Faith Holsaert, “Resistance U,” Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC, edited by Faith Holsaert, et al. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010), 181-195.

Debra L. Schultz, Going South: Jewish Women in Civil Rights Movement (New York: New York University Press, 2001).

Our Voices: Strong People, featuring Faith Holsaert, Janie Culbreth Rambeau, Larry Rubin, Shirely Sherrod, and Annette Jones White, SNCC Digital Gateway.

"Chosen Girl" is reprinted on OutHistory with the permission of Faith S. Holsaert. Copyright (c) 2003 by Faith S. Holsaert. For reproduction rights contact the author at