From the Bookshelf

by Janice Lee Odom

“Her Story”      

             “Her Story” has become a euphemism which means history told from the perspective of women.  It is critical to note that most of history has been written from a male perspective.

            Sheryl Sandberg, who is the Chief Operating Officer for Facebook, recently released a book called “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” which quickly became the best-selling book in the nation. She must have touched a heartstring.

            My circle of friends includes many women who are working outside the home. There have been many conversations between us about women’s roles in society.  Traditionally, women were raised to believe that women’s roles were to create home and family life.  However, in the tanking economy, it is also true that women have been expected to take jobs outside of the home in order to help financially support their families.  The difficult part is that despite the fact that many women are working as many hours as are their partners, the home responsibilities, like laundry, dishes, meals, helping kids with homework, are still the women’s responsibility. To be successful in any career often requires long hours.  Climbing the corporate ladder, hitting those benchmarks that mean more money, is a full-time job and more.  Women have divided energy.

            The other major conversation that I had as an undergrad in college was when my history class was discussing gender equality.  A female in the class declared that a woman would never be a good choice for public office let alone the Presidency because women were too emotional.  I remember feeling surprised at her thinking.  I certainly didn’t feel too emotional to be a leader.  In fact, I remember wondering how someone could lead without having some sense of passion regarding their ideas, and some sort of empathy regarding the pain of others.  I remember thinking that women bring different gifts to the table.  Women are great agents of balance, and have played pivotal roles in history.  But it was obvious that this particular woman had been conditioned to think that women were weak.

            This question by Tamara Winfrey Harris whose article “Can Black Women ‘Lean in’ Like Facebook’s Sheryl Sanberg?” appeared on the Root’s website http://www.theroot.com:

            “According to Sheryl Sanberg, Facebook COO and author of the self-described feminist manifesto, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, this disparity in power and achievement can be attributed to systemic gender inequality and cultural biases, but also to something else: the way women are acculturated to respond, often subconsciously, to these factors. Sandberg calls on women to “lean in:” to act with boldness and confidence; to “sit at the table” where decisions are made; to choose life partners who support their careers; and to not put those careers on hold for marriage and babies before those things are a reality.”

                Notice she says “before those things are a reality.”  I patterned my life around my children because I had them when I was very young.  I remember thinking that after my kids were in school, I would go back to work. I then wound up homeschooling my kids.  There are many women who fit the pattern that says, “after I start a family and my children are in school, I will return to the workforce.”  There is absolutely nothing wrong with planning your life. Maybe you should advance your career before starting your family.  That would ensure that you have enough money in the bank to start a family.  Trust me, families are expensive. 

            I am not saying don’t be a stay-at-home mom. This is an important role.  Parenting is the single most important role most of us will ever have.  But I am saying don’t be miserable.  If you have a dream career, a calling, that you want to pursue…,maybe you should ‘lean in.’  Talk it over with your partner.  Find ways that you all can work together to find balance in the relationship. 

            I think Sheryl Sandberg’s book is important because it opens the dialogue once again on the subject of women and gender equality.  Other great books on the subject from my bookshelf are Susan Faludi’s Backlash and Bell Hook’s Aint I a Woman?

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           I love to read.  I am a bibliophile, a lover of books.  In another life, I might have been a librarian like the actor Burgess Meridith in that old episode of the Twilight Zone in which he is the only one to survive a catastrophic event, but is thrilled that books are still there for him to read even though he can’t find another human soul. He was thrilled, that is, until he broke his glasses.

            The only difference between me and that character is that I love people too.  And I want to share with other people my reading life.  Now that I review books in FOCUS Magazine and have the radio show “Featuring the Arts” which airs on Tuesdays on WSKV 104.9FM at 5PM EST…shameless plug completely intentional…I hear from writers all the time. 

            Roberta Simpson Brown, a native of Appalachia (she’s from Russell Springs, Kentucky) and a graduate of Berea College recently sent me a copy of her book, “Campire Tales, Kentucky.”  I found the book to be a delightful romp full of very genuine tales that came from real people here in Kentucky.  It made me reminisce of days when my grandmother would be stitching on her quilt, looking over the top of her glasses, and beginning to recite her stories in her southern drawl. 

            Because these stories are told by different people from various parts of Kentucky you will have the feeling that you have been on a voyage across the state, perhaps crossing over into the Twilight Zone a few times yourself.  I recommend the book. Visit Brown’s website at www.robertasimpsonbrown.com

            Another book I had the pleasure of reading is by a writer, Lance LaCoax, whom I met at the Kentucky Book Fair held in Frankfort this year.  He had penned a book called “Cellar Doors.”  Of course, I had to have the book since I am a huge fan of the “Donny Darko” movies…an oddly cryptic little movie that was Drew Barrymore’s first stab at directing and starred Jake Gylennhall before he rose to fame.  A line from that movie, delivered by Barrymore who has a small role as an English teacher in the film is this, “The most beautiful words in the English language are the words “cellar doors.”  I knew that anyone who wrote a book called “Cellar Doors” had to be a “Donny Darko” fan, and well, that was good enough for me.  I bought the book.

            The book was a dark look into horrors that befall people, secret societies with creepy purposes, and a sort of redemption that happens along the way. I am not entirely sure the plot worked quite as well as I would have liked, but LaCoax executes the genre  in a stylistic and non-cliché manner.  I felt justified in the money spent. Given that this was LaCoax’s first book, I was impressed.  You can find out more at http://www.cellardoorsbook.com.

            Finally, my editor picked up a book somewhere in her travels and brought it back to me. This book was the surprise hit, “the belle of the ball,” so to speak.  There are many reasons why I feel this way about the book, “A Shattered Memory,”  by Alan Halsey. 

            First of all, Alan Halsey is a local person, and he has used local settings for his story.  His protagonist is from Campton, Kentucky.  The headquarters of a secretive scientific organization are in Stanton, Kentucky.  The protagonist’s father is the County Judge Executive of Campton.  It was crazy to be reading a novel and recognizing the places. 

            Secondly, Halsey excels at creating an alternate universe in a clever place.  He presents an evenly told story, with each chapter leaving you wanting more.  You will not want to put the book down until you’re finished.  I must say, this rarely occurs for me, since I read so many books.  So, when it does happen that I want to keep reading until I am finished, it is usually a book written by polished authors with several books to their credit.  “A Shattered Memory” is Halsey’s first book.  Find out more at www.alanhalsey.com or www.darkanddreary.wordpress.com.

 

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