Full disclosure: I kind of wish I had written this book. Over the years, as I’ve read basically every history or memoir of the women’s movement, I’ve often thought that I’d like to write a popular account, one that would capture the passion and power of the second wave for the next generation, and also convey the relationship of the third wave to its predecessors.
Grace Paley died on Wednesday. She was 84 and had been sick, so it should not have come as a surprise, but when I heard the news I felt a very sharp sense of loss. So I decided I would spend the night with her, reading through my well-worn copy of her Collected Stories, her poems in Begin Again: Collected Poems, and her essays in Just as I Thought. And reading her words made it even harder to believe she’s gone – her stories just radiate life, in all its banality, warmth, irrationality, sadness, and love.
Last Sunday, I called my mother to wish her a happy Mother’s Day, hoping that she would be doing something more enjoyable than grading papers or power-washing the patio. With my mother still on my mind, I picked up a copy of You Never Call! You Never Write! A History of the Jewish Mother, by Joyce Antler. In this new book, which has gotten rave reviews, Antler explores the colorful history of the Jewish mother in American life.
Someone in the comment thread to the last post mentioned Deena Metzger as another woman who writes powerfully about justice. I second that recommendation, and thought I’d take this opportunity to add a few more words about her.
April is National Poetry Month, and over the past few days I’ve been re-reading some poems by my favorite poet, Adrienne Rich. There’s so much that I love about Rich and her writing. I love how powerfully—and radically—she fuses political commitment and the pursuit of justice into her poetic vision. She writes provocatively on sexuality, race, language, power, and women’s culture as she combats racism, militarism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism.
There is a new audio podcast on Nextbook of an interview with political activist and writer Alix Kates Shulman -- featured in JWA's online exhibit Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution -- about her first novel Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen. Click here to download or listen to the Nextbook podcast.
Last week, after Jewish writer Tillie Olsen died at the age of 94, I picked up a copy of Tell Me A Riddle, her first collection of short stories published in 1961. Last night I re-read “I Stand Here Ironing,” a story that recounts a poor working woman’s ambivalence about her parenting skills and about her eldest daughter’s future during the Great Depression.
Last week’s New York Times article “So the Torah Is a Parenting Guide?” discusses the prolific use of the book The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children written by a Los Angeles clinical psychologist named Wendy Mogel.
Nora Ephron’s new book I Feel Bad about My Neck is causing quite the stir. Here we are at a time when Oprah is claiming that 50 is the new 40, women’s magazines are focusing on the beauty of self-confidence over taut skin, and women past menopause are openly discussing their sexuality. Then, wham!, Ephron comes and claims this is bull****.
I’ve never been to Israel. There, I said it. When I was a bratty teen who turned my back on all things religious, it was a point of pride. A badge that said I was too cool for exploring my encumbering heritage. Now it’s a source of embarrassment.
How could I have worked in the Jewish community for three years and not have set foot in the Holy Land? How could I be a 37-year-old woman proud of my Jewish identity and not have experienced the place Jews call home?