#WomenReadWomen2019 Adult Books Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Nonfiction Reading Themes Witches and Goddesses Dryads and Priestesses

[Monday Reading] Memoirs of American Women

"Poetry Will Save Your Life" by Jill Bialosky | "When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations On Voice" by Terry Tempest Williams.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. 

These two nonfiction titles are not technically about witches – but both authors have enchanted me and cast a spell on me. So that being said, will share them for our current reading theme.

Poetry Will Save Your Life [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Jill Bialosky
Published by Atria Books (2017)
ISBN: 1451693206 (ISBN13: 9781451693201). Bought a copy of the book. 

I came in to this book with too-high expectations, I suppose. From the title itself, I expected something that was redemptive and .. well, life-saving. I guess it just found me at the wrong time; when I was too distracted by the many things I had to adjust to, having just moved here in Al Ain while I was reading this, for me to really appreciate its truth and its beauty.

Each of the short chapters revolve around a theme, for example Mothers, Faith, Legacy, or Terror. Subsumed under that are the featured poem or poems that the author feels correspond to that particular theme. More than anything, I enjoyed knowing more about poets that were previously unknown to me, such as Li-Young Lee and the poem Have You Prayed? and Adam Zagajewski’s Try To Praise The Mutilated World. Each chapter felt episodic, and subsequently, it felt fragmented for me – rather than me truly getting a glimpse of the person behind the memoir.

The whole book felt more like a poetry lecture, which felt somewhat prescriptive for me, as the author interpreted each poem’s meaning or truth, and it seemed like the only possible truth that can be discerned from the poem. Perhaps that was not the author’s intention, but as a reader I felt like I was being lectured at, rather than being invited in to a reading experience. However, as I said, the book may have found me at an inopportune time. Perhaps if I read it again sometime in the future, I will have a different “interpretation” of it.

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations On Voice [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Terry Tempest Williams
Published by Sarah Crichton Books / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2012)
ISBN: 0374288976 (ISBN13: 9780374288976). Bought a copy of the book. Book quote layout via Typorama.

This book was not originally on my TBR stack to be read for our current reading theme. I chanced upon it while I was arranging my bookshelves, after having unpacked it from one of our over 300 boxes from Singapore. Flipping through the first few pages moved me, as it seemed like an ode to one’s mother, a celebration of women’s voices, and the many fragile bonds shared by womanity in general. I had to bump it up my stack, and I was not disappointed.

Here is a direct quote from the book that I feel best embodies our current reading theme on goddesses, spirit mothers, priestesses:

There were moments somewhere in the beginning when I felt that the prose was overdone, that it seemed repetitive, and too flowery even by my standards (I usually appreciate verbosity as much as the distilled, clean prose). And then gradually, the repetition seemed like a chant, a prayer, an incantation of sorts – as Terry Tempest Williams tried to make sense of the blank journals that her mother bequeathed her when she died. What does a daughter make of a mother’s set of journals, beautifully bound, thick and brimming with promise – only to find its pages empty, devoid of notes, messages, sought-for-wisdom?

There is a build-up of power in this narrative written by a Mormon woman. While I thought, initially, that we had very little in common – her persistence in inviting me over to drink her words has loosened me up, and made me extend my hand in solidarity, in shared womanity, in friendship. This is a memoir that will stay with me for a long time to come.

#WomenReadWomen2019: United States of America

Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

5 comments on “[Monday Reading] Memoirs of American Women

  1. I will look for the second book, Myra. My daughter, her friend & the children are in New Mexico right now, visiting some sacred Native sites. I will share that one quote with her! Thank you!


  2. I have added When Women Were Birds to my for later list. It sounds like my kind of book, but I am overwhelmed with books I already have here.


  3. Whoa, When Women Were Birds sounds very good! I’m going to see if we have a local copy. Thanks for sharing, Myra!


  4. Sarah Sammis

    Your books look interesting. Sorry the poetry book wasn’t what you were hoping. My weekly update


  5. Pingback: [Book Quote Tuesday] Turning To Poetry – Gathering Books

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