"This remarkable and wide-ranging collection, full of surprises, should encourage any woman who is trying to survive in a man's world, and enlighten any man who sincerely wants to understand contemporary women." —Alison Lurie"This magnificent, handsome, handful of an anthology . . ."* includes sixty-one substantial selections from the twentieth-century literature of women's lives: autobiographies, journals, and memoirs. "As varied in humanity as in geography,"** the women whose life stories are collected here include the famous—Maya Angelou, Maxine Hong Kingston, Anne Frank, Virginia Woolf—and the surprising—Emma Mashinini, a black South African labor organizer; Onnie Lee Logan, an Alabama "granny" midwife; Sara Suleri, an expatriate in America who reflects hilariously on the language of food in her native Pakistan.
Le Ly Hayslip, the sixth child in a Vietnamese peasant family, describes a life pinched between the violence of Viet Cong revolutionaries and South Vietnamese republicans. Poet and lesbian feminist Audre Lorde writes about being introduced to the wonders of reading as a stubborn, bright, legally blind youngster. "I lay spreadeagled on the floor of the Children's Room like a furious brown toad, screaming bloody murder and embarrassing my mother to death," she recalls. Jill Ker Conway tells of her father's depression and death when a drought crushed their sheep farm in the Australian outback.
The excerpts drop us smack into the middle of each life; inventive cross-referencing encourages the reader to fly back and forth, sampling other writings on "filial exasperation," for example, or child's-eye views of romance and war. --Francesca Coltrera