Went to the library to find memoirs of women with unusual families or academic careers. I browsed, rather than asking for help. I found two important books:
--Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress by Susan Jane Gilman
This memoir of growing up in a Jewish hippie family in NYC is strikingly honest about a kid's eye view of everything from concrete playgrounds to racial inequities and adolescent rock star adoration. The first half is brilliant, and she should write children's books. She write the way children are, seeing one another as people. Just like Iona Opie describe in The People on the Playground, kids refer to one another as people... not little people, not kids.... they do not see themselves as incomplete but as whole, with their own whole dramas.
Gilman gets this. I'd read anything she writes. I laughed out loud enough times while reading the first few chapters that I decided not to take the book with me on the bus or to cafes. http://www.susanjanegilman.com/
--Drinking the Rain by Alix Kates Schulman
This is a memoir of a woman who decides to move to the ramshackle cottage of the Maine coast where she has previously summered with her husband and now grown children. She experiences a spiritual awakening brought about by paying intimate attention to her environment, and in particular by learning how to live by eating the abundant species of marine and vegetative life around her. This part, the entire first section, was inspiring and vivid, and gave me yet another way to think about the concept of seeing abundance instead of deprivation. I believe this way of seeing is a matter of choice.
She lost me at the point where she returned to the city and got so caught up in her "new" way of being that she practically drove her feminist group to reject her new insights. It's hard to be graceful about changing, as I know from my own life. Sometimes we embrace something that feels so new that we don't want to be understood, as a means of keepign ourselves distinct. When she told one of her feminist friends that she (Schulman) understood the friend's mother better than the friend did, I was just grossed out. Goes to show you what getting too attached to the idea of having had a spiritual revelation can bring you.
--Sleeping with Cats by Marge Piercy
I admire Piercy and her work, but I put this wandering memoir down after two chapters. Maybe it will be better later.
I enjoyed the memoir, but in the end I wasn't sure if I liked the author. She seemed to create so much chaos around her in her search for calm and solitude.