I’ve noticed a pattern in my reading recently. I’m only reading women writers. There was a point in my late teens/early twenties when I only read male writers. I understood their sense of humor, their need to leave their families, the taste for good food, good talk, fine wines and drunken buffoonery. Now I’ve shed that rebellious young man in me and women writers have flooded in much to my surprise and delight. Novels, memoirs, letters, and advice, women have a lot to say about life and how they live it. Maybe that’s why I hesitated to read them. I got enough advice at home. I needed those men to show me how to break the mold and forge ahead. “Go West young man.” These three women have all gone west, if not literally, but forged ahead on their trails, making their way through unknown territories, living out their destinies, sharing their stories to tamp down the road for the next traveler.
In “Unquenchable Thirst” Mary Johnson shares the twenty years spent as a nun in the Missionaries of Charity working under Mother Teresa. She struggles with individuation, sexuality, and leadership. And has the courage to step away from the only life she’s ever imagined for herself. Here is some advice she receives in confession from a Priest who’s become a friend.
“Honest questions can be more important than answers. Just keep asking the questions and continue to be honest with yourself. I know it’s difficult to be in a place of uncertainty, but keep searching, without getting too uptight. You’ll find your own way. Listen to God in your heart.”
I can’t gush enough over “When Women Were Birds” by Terry Tempest Williams. Terry is left her mother’s journals when she passes away but finds that all 54 are blank. And so she writes 54 variations on voice.
“If ever there was a story without shadow, it would be this: that we as women exist in direct sunlight only. When women were birds, we knew otherwise. We knew our greatest freedom in taking flight at night, when we could steal the heavenly darkness for ourselves, navigating through the intelligence of stars and the constellations of our own making in the delight and terror of our uncertainty.”
And another one, I just started listening to “Country Girl” by Edna O’Brien. Read by O’Brien in her beautiful lilting Irish accent, she brings to light her journey as a woman writer in Ireland. The controversy, the scandal, and the redemptive love that comes but possibly too late.
“It seems to me that I saw things before I actually saw them; they were always there, the way I believe that the words are always there, coursing through us. I think, for instance that I recognized the blue walls of the blue room, walls weeping quietly away from endless damp and no fire, even though there was a fire grate, ridiculously small compared with the size of the room, in which the lid of a chocolate box had been laid as an ornament.”