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The Norton Book of Womens Lives

ISBN 0393312909 / 9780393312904 / 0-393-31290-9

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Book summary

This amazingly rich lode of memoirs, letters, and diaries jumbles together a great roster of 20th-century women, including Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, Bernadette Devlin, Emily Mashinini, Sara Suleri, and Santha Rama Rau.

Le Ly Hayslip, the sixth child in a Vietnamese peasant family, describes a life pinched between the violence of Viet Cong revolutionaries and South Vietnamese republicans. Poet and lesbian feminist Audre Lorde writes about being introduced to the wonders of reading as a stubborn, bright, legally blind youngster. "I lay spreadeagled on the floor of the Children's Room like a furious brown toad, screaming bloody murder and embarrassing my mother to death," she recalls. Jill Ker Conway tells of her father's depression and death when a drought crushed their sheep farm in the Australian outback.

The excerpts drop us smack into the middle of each life; inventive cross-referencing encourages the reader to fly back and forth, sampling other writings on "filial exasperation," for example, or child's-eye views of romance and war. --Francesca Coltrera [via]