Friday, November 20, 2009


The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West

A quintessential American heroine, Eliza Birdwell is a wonderful blend of would-be austerity, practicality, and gentle humor when it comes to keeping her faith and caring for her family and community. Her husband, Jess, shares Eliza's love of people and peaceful ways but, unlike Eliza, also displays a fondness for a fast horse and a lively tune. With their children, they must negotiate their way through a world that constantly confronts them-sometimes with candor, sometimes with violence-and tests the strength of their beliefs. Whether it's a gift parcel arriving on their doorstep or Confederate soldiers approaching their land, the Birdwells embrace life with emotion, conviction, and a love for one another that seems to conquer all.
The Friendly Persuasion has charmed generations of readers as one of our classic tales of the American Midwest.

A Good Enough Daughter: A Memoir by Alix Kates Shulman

Shulman's autobiographical novel, Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, epitomized the intellectual and sexual awakenings of many young women in the 1960s. Now, like so many of her contemporaries, she's grappling with the loss of her parents, and with what it means to be a daughter. For Shulman, this undertaking is infused with guilt about the distance she imposed by choosing to live the literary life in New York City while her parents grew old in Cleveland, Ohio. But this memoir is more than just an effort to express the appreciation for her late parents that she couldn't quite bring herself to grant them in their lifetimes. What makes it satisfying are Shulman's wonderfully idiosyncratic reminiscences of two colorful and articulate parents who loved and encouraged their daughter. She elegantly interweaves such poignant events as dismantling the family home after her mother and father have moved into a retirement community with moments from the childhood years she shared with her adopted brother, Bob, who died of lung cancer at a relatively young age. The messager of this honest and well-written memoir is, in the end, one of redemption, reconciliation and affection. The rebellious ex-prom queen has become a caring daughter. Black and white photos.

Weeds by Edith Summers Kelley

First published in 1923, Weeds is a classic of American naturalism with a profoundly feminist turn-pioneer in a tradition of rural, working-class women's writing that includes such works as Harriet Arnow's The Dollmaker, Tillie Olsen's Yonnondio, and Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres. Set amidst the harsh life of rural Kentucky tenant farmers, Weeds is the moving story of a hard-working, spirited young woman who must painfully submit to the limitations imposed by her time, her class, and her gender.

Coming of age in Scott County, Kentucky, Judith Pippinger is intelligent, sensitive, and full of untamed energy. She falls in love first with the natural world around her, and then with a decent and loving man, Jerry Blackford. Judith and Jerry marry and work side-by-side in the tobacco fields; they are poor share croppers, but they hope each year will bring them a richer harvest.

But Judith soon finds herself in a deep, soul-destroying stuggle against the imprisoning duties of motherhood and of managing an impoverished household. As crops fail and her marriage falters, Judith yields at last. She resolves to bring up her children without hope that her life might be different; but as one of her daughters lies near death, she summons her last vestiges of strength and wills the child to survive.

In the tragic world of this powerful novel, both Judy and Jerry become victims of circumstance. The impossible economic conditions, the gruelling toil of tenant farming, the disease and isolation-all take a crippling toll on their spirits. They survive, but they are changed-Judith even more than Jerry. Kelley's deeply nuanced portrait is particularly remarkable in depicting a woman who suffers not from a lack of love-from her husband, her children, or her community-but from an unrequited longing for self-expression and freedom.

When Weeds was first published in 1923, the editors cut from the novel a chapter describing the birth of Judith's first child, deeming it too graphic for readers. This chapter has been restored to the Feminist Press edition.

What did YOU find today?


itsJUSTme-wendy said...

Wow, ALL those books sound good!

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Hi, I understand you deserve a "Happy Birthday," but I think I missed it!

Anyway, hope it was great.

I love reading Alix Kates Shulman and read "Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen" several times. In fact, it's on my stack to reread.

Meanwhile, I thought I had this one, "A Good Enough Daughter," on my stack, but can't find it! I think I must have it on a wish list.

Thanks for reminding me!

Laughing Stars said...

These look awesome! You seem like quite an eclectic reader. ;-)

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Looks like you are reading a lot. Me? Jealous!


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