Papers of Katya and Bert Gilden available to researchers
The Bridgeport History Center is pleased to announce that the recently acquired Papers of Katya and Bert Gilden are now open for research. Focused on the rich, creative lives of the Gildens individually and as the author duo K.B. Gilden, the collection includes material related to their published novels, Hurry Sundown and Between Hills and the Sea, as well as the unpublished The Final Hearing: The Life of Lonnie McLucas, the Death of Alex Rackley.
Katya (nee Alpert) and Bert Gilden were long time residents of Bridgeport who rocketed to blockbuster fame with their 1964 novel Hurry Sundown, which was focused on race and class in Georgia following the second World War and was later turned into a film by Otto Preminger. Their follow up novel, Between the Hills and the Sea, was set in a lightly fictionalized Bridgeport up to and including a mayor who is Jasper McLevy in everything but name. The book is noted for how accurately it depicts life on the shop floor and union politics – something both were familiar with from personal experience and as members of the Communist Party.
In addition to containing the developmental materials for both of their published novels and various short stories, the collection also features a number of unpublished works. This includes novels that Katya and Bert were working on separately before they met each other, and material Katya was working on following Bert’s death in 1971.
Of particular note among Katya’s unpublished manuscripts is the research and existent drafts of a biography of Lonnie McLucas, one of the defendants in the New Haven Black Panthers trial accused of the murder of Alex Rackley. Katya spent extensive time interviewing McLucas, with her son Jay remarking that he drove his mother down to McLucas’s hometown area in North Carolina for further research. Several drafts of chapters credit Lonnie McLucas as a co-author, making it clear that the work was collaborative and Katya viewed it as such.
To view the contents of the collection, a more complete biography of the Gildens including Bert’s testimony to the House Unamerican Activities Committee, Katya’s work on the McLucas biography, and information about access to the material, please view the finding aid on the Connecticut Digital Archive.
The Bridgeport History Center extends it’s deepest gratitude to Jay Gilden for his time and insight into the lives of his parents.