Tuesday, May 21, 2013

When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams

When Women Were Birds.  Fifty-Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams

Terry's mother told her, a week before she died, that she was leaving her all her journals.  She had three shelves of journals in various prints and colors all stacked neatly in rows on the bookshelf.  Her mother made her promise that she wouldn't look at them until she was gone.  "In Mormon culture, women are expected to do two things:  keep a journal and bear children." pg. 18.  What Terry found after her mother died was a complete shock; every one of her mother's journals was blank.

The surprise and weight of the blank journals, requires many questions.  Questions that will be asked but not have any answers, only contemplation.

Within When Women Were Birds, Terry Tempest Williams explores what is means to be a woman, a mother, a grandmother, a writer. She explores faith, the environment, the beauty of birds, marriage.  Terry contemplate her voice, silence and the meaning of her mother's journals.

Terry Tempest Williams is a heartfelt storyteller.  Here she takes the story of her mother and her blank journals and turns it into a beautiful, unique, powerful memoir that is hard to put in a category.  When Women Were Birds is virtually a variegated prism of multiple hues, a treasure chest, a love story to women and voice.

This is the first book I have read written by Terry Tempest Williams and it won't be the last.  My copy of When Women Were Birds is marked with rainbow color tabs because the book spoke to me on a deep level.  It spoke to me as a woman, a mother and a writer.  It was, in short, amazing.  I could relate on so many different levels and thought constantly about the wonderful women and mother's in my life.

Let me share some of my favorite quotes:

"A pencil is a wand and a weapon.  Be Careful.  Protect yourself.  It can be glorious." pg 39

"To be read.  To be heard.  To be seen.  I want to be read, I want to be heard.  I don't need to be seen.  To write requires an ego, a belief that what you say matters."  pg. 47

"There are two important days in a woman's life: the day she is born and the day she finds out why." pg. 209

Muriel Rukeyser asked the question "What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?  The world would split open."
The world is splitting open." Pg 100

"Reading has not only changed my life but saved it.  The right books picked at the right times-especially the one that scares us, threatens to undermine all we have been told, the one that contains forbidden thoughts-these are the books that become Eve's apples."  Pg 97

When Women Were Birds is a gift you must give yourself and the women in your life.