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Breaking Free

Overview

In twenty-seven personal and daring essays, some of our finest women writers examine the second half of their lives. They grapple with what age and life have taught them, contemplate their experiences, and reflect on where they have arrived. These are writers who get down and dirty, who have looked at themselves as they are, and at life as it is, to discover not only what time has taken from them but also the powerful gifts that only come with age and experience.

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Overview

In twenty-seven personal and daring essays, some of our finest women writers examine the second half of their lives. They grapple with what age and life have taught them, contemplate their experiences, and reflect on where they have arrived. These are writers who get down and dirty, who have looked at themselves as they are, and at life as it is, to discover not only what time has taken from them but also the powerful gifts that only come with age and experience.

Contributors include: Isabel Allende, Maya Angelou, M. F. K. Fisher, China Galland, Vivian Gornick, Germaine Greer, Erica Jong, Audre Lorde, Grace Paley, Alix Kates Shulman, Gloria Steinem, and Terry Tempest Williams.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
As the average age of Americans slowly rises, libraries will need responsive collections. Herrick (Boise: A Global Community in the West) celebrates the collective joys and hard-learned wisdom of femininity in lush, poetic prose that often borders on precious. Although confident ("I am nothing but adrenaline and exuberance"), she does not provide how-to. The final chapter should have come first, as it explains that Herrick can't have children. Bolton used to write jokes for comedic greats Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller; her riffs on life for seniors wouldn't be out of place in the Catskills. Though packed with funny quips and one-liners (e.g., use menopausal hot flashes as an energy source), her book mainly consists of monologs, the last couple of which grow mawkish. On the whole, however, this favorably recalls Erma Bombeck's irreverence. Mayne, the author of several thrillers, has collected the autobiographies of five women who came of age in the 1950s and 1960s. Some were particularly abused, and the flood of misery that their stories unleashes only serves to document how awful life could be for women at that time. Unfortunately, themes of life lessons learned are lost in the mire of broken love stories, childhood horrors, and drunken, philandering husbands. Sewell's anthology is more incisive by comparison, revealing how 27 middle-aged women writers just "be" (as opposed to how they once were and what they took for that). While some of the essays pack a punch, most tend toward mundane, e.g., Dorothy Walls's poignant essay about masking beauty lines behind plastic surgery. Maturity has netted these authors grace, courage, and "meaning deeper than skin," but their messages are all too familiar. There is no lack of feminista-writers-on-writing books, including Jocelyn Burrell's compilation Word: On Being a (Woman) Writer. Geriatric psychologist Solie does an excellent job of debunking the myth that our elders are merely older versions of ourselves. Seniors are undergoing a developmental transition akin to adolescence; practical, effective communication methods are presented to help minimize generational conflict. This, in turn, paves the way for the important work of advocating for (instead of marginalizing) elders, who face a daily struggle for control. Though an age group isn't numerically defined (it's more a life stage), this makes an important contribution to our cultural understanding of "seniors" and is highly recommended for public libraries and professional collections. Bolton's, Herrick's, and Sewell's books are optional; Mayne's is not recommended. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807028254
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 10/1/2004
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 1,412,734
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Marilyn Sewell is senior minister of the First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon, and editor of Cries of the Spirit (Beacon / 6849-7 / $20.00 pb) and Claiming the Spirit Within (Beacon / 6861-6 / $20.00 pb). She lives in Portland.

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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 Necessary losses
from Fear of fifty 9
Facing 15
Sink or swim 19
What this old hand knows 23
from Fierce attachments 26
from A good enough daughter 38
Baking bread with my daughter 42
Viriditas in Vinci 45
Scars : in four parts 54
from The cancer journals 61
Saying yes, yes, always yes 69
from The woman within 77
Pt. 2 Breaking free
from Aphrodite : a memoir of the senses 87
A song to sensuality 93
from Revolution from within 96
from The change 103
On being a rebellious old woman 109
Upstaging time 113
Nana I ke ku ... looking to the source 123
The calling 129
Mopping the floor 139
from The measure of my days 150
Wrestling with my angel 153
Fearless 167
Death of a mouse 178
Santa Teresa 183
In the hollow that remains 190
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