Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: When Women Were Birds

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on VoiceWhen Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A powerful, restrained series of essays on finding and articulating one’s voice. The topics cover a number of intensely personal experiences in Williams’s adult life: uncovering the meaning of her mother’s blank journals found after her death, Williams’s experiences as a teacher and activist, & her struggles to reconcile her life’s choices with what is expected of her. Despite the individual nature of these events, Williams is focused on what all good writers try to define, which is how to survive and prosper amid the messy circumstances of life.

Much of what I could cobble together of a plot summary would come more in the form of a list but would not convey the power of Williams’s writing or the depth of her thoughts. Or perhaps I simply use this as an excuse not to discuss how much this book moved me. Williams’s ability to make substantive connections between her perspective and the environment that has shaped it is poignant and something special to be experienced by readers. As an aspiring writer myself, this book is now among those I venerate with prose that is vital, aware and knowledgeable of it’s own borders. Recommended to all nonfiction writers as well as readers interested in meditations on aging, living an unconventional life, or women’s activism.

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