Book Reviews

When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice

“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.”

And so, When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams has become that book for me this week, this month, this year, this lifetime.

I thought it would just be fifty-four variations on voice like stated on the cover.

I thought it would be a memoir about a relationship between a mother and her daughter, after the mother’s death.

I thought it would be poetry, essays, verse and words of wisdom.

I thought it would be about birds, nature and the environment in connection with beings.

I thought it would be a mystery as Williams figured out why her mother left her shelves of blank journals.

I thought it would be contradictions of the inner and outer self.

I thought it would be about feminism and the roles women play.

I thought it would be about the importance of voice; both spoken and silent.

It was all of these preconceived thoughts and more. When Women Were Birds is an experience. One to treasure slowly. I reread it as I read it for the first time, trying desperately to ingest the words on the page to become part of me. I have never met Williams nor have we had similar experiences in life, but somehow I felt she was inside my brain and put my innermost and deepest thoughts out there for everyone to read.

‘Most of my injuries come from the stereotype.’ These are not my words. I plagiarize. I will not tell you who wrote them. Instead, I will claim them as my own because I have so thoroughly inhabited them; they could be written by no one else but me.

We borrow. We steal. We purchase what we need and buy what we don’t. We acquire things, people, places, all in the process of losing ourselves. Busyness is the religion of distraction. I cannot talk to you, because I have too much to do.

I cannot do what I want, because I am doing what I must. Must I forever walk away from what is real and true and hard?

When it comes to words, rather than using our own voice, authentic and unpracticed, we steal someone else’s to shield our fear. And in my mother’s case, she let me fill in the blanks. This is my inheritance.”

Oh, and I MUST thank Shannon from River City Reading for mentioning this book at some time, somewhere on her blog. She mentioned it and I listened.

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5 thoughts on “When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams

  1. Pingback: When Women Were Birds | Quotables | Bookish Tendencies

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