On this episode of The Lit Show, Terry Tempest Williams discusses her latest book, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice.
“I am leaving you all my journals,” Williams’ mother told her, a week before she died. “But you must promise me that you will not look at them until after I am gone.” That her mother kept a journal was a surprise, but one that paled in comparison to the shock of their contents. Every one of her mother’s journals – “three shelves of beautiful clothbound books” – was empty. What follows is a meditative memoir; fifty-four essays in miniature that circle intimacy, nature, politics, and the task of writing to pose the question: What does it mean to have a voice? By turn confessional and lyrical, When Women Were Birds grapples with the privilege of speaking and the eloquence of silence.
The Seattle Times describes When Women Were Birds as “an extraordinary echo chamber in which lessons about voice – passed along from mother, to daughter, and now to us – will reverberate,” and the San Francisco Chronicle calls the book “a Whitmanesque embrace of the world and its contradictions.”
Williams is the author of fourteen books, including Leap, Refuge, Finding Beauty in a Broken World, and the essay collection, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert. She is a frequent contributor to Orion Magazine and is a columnist for The Progressive. The current Annie Clark Tanner Scholar in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah, Williams splits her time between Castle Valley, Utah, and Moose, Wyoming.