It goes without saying that Jewish women have so many accomplishments to be proud of. A quick search through the Jewish Women's Archive's Discover pages reveals women both lauded and nearly forgotten who have made strides in business, medicine, philosophy and the arts. Telling their stories is our mission. And this story is a big one.
Today I'm celebrating the 35th birthday of one of my favorite childhood albums, "Free to Be You and Me." I've always loved this collection of songs and stories that envision a non-sexist world. As a young adult, I was proud to learn that Jewish feminist Letty Cottin Pogrebin was the editorial consultant for the album, book, and tv special (and the author of "Stories for Free Children" which I also loved). Lately I've had the happy opportunity to appreciate "Free to Be You and Me" a second time around, now as a mom. It's fun to hear the voices of Marlo Thomas, Diana Ross, Harry Belafonte, Alan Alda, and Mel Brooks - it's like visiting with old friends.
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.
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.
Lately I’ve been re-reading the stories of Grace Paley, and no matter how many times I’ve read them, they’re hard to put down. She’s one of my favorite writers, a woman who weaves stories from what she views around her and captures how the most mundane, brief moments (a walk with a friend, moms watching kids in the park) contain everything we need to know about people and the world.