The Beacon Book of Essays by Contemporary American Women

The Beacon Book of Essays by Contemporary American Women

by Wendy Martin

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This excellent compilation features essays by women writers of varying ethnic backgrounds, age, class, sexual orientation and religion. With the exception of Mary McCarthy's 1951 piece about the significance of names, the contributions were written over the last 30 years and provide an overview of the cultural impact of the women's liberation movement. Poet Adrienne Rich examines her separate identities as a Jew, a woman and a lesbian, and author Alice Walker credits feminist ideology with freeing her to understand the sexist behavior of her father and brothers. Several essays deal with reproductive issues, including fertility (Carolyn Coma), abortion (Mary Gordon) and the struggle to conceive (anthropologist Margaret Meade). Insight and humor characterize Susan Faludi's article on her fear of public speaking, and pioneer feminist Betty Friedan shares her thoughts on becoming a grandmother. An engrossing and lively collection. (Feb.)
Library Journal
In this diverse collection, editor Martin (English, Claremont Graduate Sch.) includes the work of well-known authors such as Toni Morrison, Adrienne Rich, Alice Walker, Amy Tan, and Gwendolyn Brooks, along with several new voices, many appearing in book form for the first time. Writing as mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, lovers, and friends, these women represent a cross-section of religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic classes. In their essays they discuss nearly every conceivable issue permeating contemporary American female life-family and relationship dynamics, birth and death, infertility, sickness, the violation of rape, the complexities of ethnic identity, discrimination and stereotyping, and "finding oneself" in today's world. Especially notable are Betty Friedan's "Thoughts on Becoming a Grandmother," Jane Slaughter's "A Beaut of a Shiner," and Maya Angelou's "The Deterioration of My Marriage." Highly recommended for all literature and women's studies collections.-Marcie Zwaik, "Library Journal''
Donna Seaman
Essays have always been an important facet of American literature, serving as proving grounds for new thoughts and perspectives. In her succinct introduction to this lively volume, editor Martin notes that American women writers have successfully used this most fluid of forms to articulate their experiences and to express their objections to sexual inequality. To illustrate this point, Martin has chosen essays by a remarkable group of American women writers. Under the heading "Family," we find Sandra Cisneros on being "the only daughter in a family of six sons" ; Amy Tan on her mother's English; Maya Angelou on the disintegration of a marriage; and Betty Friedan on becoming a grandmother. Mary McCarthy, Toni Morrison, and May Sarton write about matters of self-identity; Susan Faludi heads the section of essays about sexual violence, which also includes an unforgettable, anonymous account of a rape. Mary Gordon, Margaret Mead, and others write about pregnancy and reproductive rights. And Martin's focus is broad enough to include nature writing, an especially fruitful genre for such writers as Annie Dillard and Linda Hogan.

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