Embracing Anne Tyler's portrait of a wife saddled with an inept husband who can't even fix a leaky faucet and Tama Janowitz's evocation of a hip, jaded New Yorker enslaved by a lover who holds the lease on their apartment, the women and girls in these 26 tales are complex personalities at the mercy of life's mundane cycles, woes and joys. The bulk of these mostly excellent pieces from accomplished writers date from the 1970s and '80s. Jayne Ann Phillips's protagonist unwillingly colludes to keep her mother ignorant of the latter's impending death; an abortion leads to frigidity and divorce for Alice Walker's heroine; a stepmother eggs on her husband to beat his daughter in a story by Alice Munro; Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates target the ambiguities of pregnancy and adolescence, respectively; Becky Birtha's aging black lesbian's dead lover coaxes her into the arms of Old Man Death. Martin, who edited An American Sisterhood , rounds out the omnibus with satisfying earlier stories from Eudora Welty et al. that hark back to outmoded values. The only discordant note here is Paule Marshall's melodramatic depiction of a Jewish man who seeks to ease his personal despair by possessing a black woman and, through her, the collective suffering of her race. (Apr.)
This book lives up to its subtitle. While our literary traditions have emphasized European origins and writers who are predominantly white and male, these stories offer a more complete rendering of human experience. Written by women of African, Asian, Native American, Hispanic, and Jewish background, they explore terrain not treated before with depth, detail, complexity, and intimacy. Thus, Margaret Atwood's ``Giving Birth'' is a masterful telling of both process and miracle. Leslie Silko's ``Yellow Woman'' utilizes the legends of the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico to remind us of a distant cultural past. Alice Walker's ``The Abortion'' shows how the aftermath of an abortion brings a troubled marriage to an end and reveals telling differences in character. Alice Munro's ``Royal Beatings'' offers a horrifying glimpse into the sadistic pleasures of child abuse. This book belongs on the shelves of every library that houses the best in the humanities.-- Addie Lee Bracy, Beaver Coll. Lib., Glenside, Pa.