Provocative and compulsively readable, lively, engaging, and brilliantly representative, The Oxford Book of Women's Writing in the United States presents short stories, poems, essays, plays, speeches, performance pieces, erotica, diaries, correspondence, and even a few recipes from nearly one hundred of our best women writers.
Reveling in the awareness that the best U.S. women's writing is, quite simply, some of the best in the world, editors Linda Wagner-Martin and Cathy N. Davidson have chosen selections spanning four centuries and reflecting the rich variety of American women's lives. The collection embraces the perspectives of age and youth, the traditional and the revolutionary, the public and the private. Here is Judith Sargent Murray's 1790 essay "On the Equality of the Sexes," journalist Martha Gellhorn's "Last Words on Vietnam, 1987," and Mary Gordon's homage to the ghosts of Ellis Island, "More Than Just a Shrine"; powerful short stories by Zora Neale Hurston, Edith Wharton, Cynthia Ozick, and Toni Morrison; letters from Abigail Adams, Sarah Moore Grimke[accent], Emma Goldman, and Georgia O'Keeffe; Alice B. Toklas's recipe "Bass for Picasso," and erotic offerings from Anais Nin and Rita Mae Brown. The moving autobiography of Zitkala- Sa[accent], whose mother was a Sioux, tells us more about "otherness" than any sociological treatise, while Janice Mirikitani's and Nellie Wong's poems about being young Asian-American women, like Alice Walker's meditation on the beauty of growing old, speak to all readers.
A thought-provoking introduction and descriptive headnotes explore the history of women's writing in ways that help the reader to understand the American women who have used language to change their worlds and to remember the past, and as a means of etching their deepest, fondest dreams. A joy to read, The Oxford Book of Women's Writing in the United States is filled with eye-opening and unexpected selections. It is the perfect book for anyone fascinated by women's writing and women's lives.
Wagner-Martin (Telling Women's Lives) and Davidson (Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji) offer a generous survey of American women's voices that is as remarkable for its quality as it is for its breadth. Asserting that much writing by women has been neglected because ``it did not fit into existing literary categories,'' they have organized their selections-written by almost 100 writers from the colonial era to the present-into six spacious categories: short fiction (from Sarah Orne Jewett to Helena Mara Viramontes); poetry (Anne Bradstreet to Carolyn Forch); public lives (Revolutionary War-era feminist Judith Sargent Murray to Anna Quindlen); acting out (a speech by Sojourner Truth, an excerpt from Anna Deveare Smith's performance piece Fires in the Mirror); private lives (personal letters of Abigail Adams, Emma Goldman and Mary McCarthy); and bodily pleasures (Alice B. Toklas's Haschich Fudge recipe; surprisingly, Emily Dickinson's poetry is included in the category of ``Erotica.''). The forms include short stories, novellas and poems as well as more informal chants, meditations and monologues. The entries also are cross-referenced by topic: childhood, identity, love relationships, etc. Read front to back, the book dwells at first on women's power struggles with loutish, insensitive men, but it segues effectively into explorations of sexuality, ethnic and political issues and internal conflicts. Some of the pieces, such as Abigail Adams's letter to John (``I desire you would Remember the Ladies'') highlight what women have been able (and unable) to say with language at various points in American history; others, like Cynthia Ozick's ``The Shawl,'' testify to what women can do with language. As textbook, reference work or cover-to-cover recreational reading, this collection is an outstanding editorial achievement. (June)