Books by Patricia Foster

BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Oct. 11, 2004

"Perceptive, thoughtful—and thought-provoking—with abundant moments of insight."
Intensely personal essays explore autobiography as a means of creative self-examination. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Dec. 1, 1995

A collection of admirably textured and often painfully honest writings. The bond between sisters is one of the most intimate and complicated relationships, and as many of the contributors point out, it has too often been belittled or left unexplored. These pieces are mostly nonfiction, and more than half of them are published here for the first time. There is strong writing from women with sisters who are mentally ill or retarded, sisters with multiple sclerosis or who commit suicide or disappear. Competition and jealousy are explored, as is the confusing and often agonizing struggle to find a separate identity (``I'm you,'' one five-year- old said to her six-year-old sister; ``We're me,'' her sister agreed). Interestingly, editor Foster (ed., Minding the Body, 1994) also includes two outside perspectives—from women who don't have sisters. Some of the gems of the collection are Joy Williams's short story about elderly, childless sisters who find a baby in their mailbox; Debra Spark's memoir about her sister's death from cancer; Robin Behn's essay on her sister's conversion to Buddhism; and Lucy Grealy's meditation on what having a twin means—and what it doesn't mean. Not surprisingly, given that many of the contributors' sisters are still living, some of the first-person essays attempt to sugar-coat the pain and anger they express, ending with Pollyanna-ish odes to sisterhood. bell hooks, who, growing up, was shunned by her five sisters for being ``crazy,'' writes compellingly about feeling left out and about the way the girls criticized each other's bodies and policed each other's sexuality; yet she ends with the declaration that she and all her sisters ``know the joy of sustained sisterly bonding.'' (For more on this special bond, see Brenda Peterson's Sister Stories, p. 1475.) Despite the occasional lapse into platitudes, a powerful collection; women with and without sisters will find many of their feelings expressed here with eerie accuracy. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: May 6, 1994

In her foreword to Minding the Body, an impressive collection of writings by women about the female body, Foster recalls her grandmother, a miner's wife in the '30s, telling her, ``When I asked my doctor for some form of birth control after the exhaustion of 12 pregnancies he said impatiently, `You're a woman, Mrs. Baxter. That's what women are made for.' '' That was then; today the demands for bodily perfection, a prime socioeconomic asset, have given rise to another kind of oppression—an oppression of shame. As Nancy Mairs writes, ``The female population of the US suffers from the shame of falling short of an unattainable standard, the ideal woman'' as defined by the advertising, television, and movie industries. Have women advanced economically only to be restricted by the cult of physical perfection? In response, Foster has gathered writings in which writers explore their relationships to their bodies. The result is a collection of vivid portraits by 20 writers, including well-known writers like Margaret Atwood, Janet Burroway, Doris Grumbach, Naomi Wolf, Joyce Winer, Judith Hopper, and other lesser-known writers. (Six of the pieces are published here for the first time.) They describe the day-to-day business of dealing with cancer and chemotherapy, pregnancy and infertility, anorexia, aging, multiple sclerosis. They give the facts about diets and plastic surgery. They describe what it is like to live as a minority woman in a culture obsessed with Calvin Klein jeans and fashion statements that peculiarly objectify Third World women. It provides a wealth of information about the realities this generation of women have to deal with. Though depressing at times, Minding the Body is an inspiring testimony to the female spirit. It offers examples of women who have mapped their own roads, who, as Linda Hogan says, lead lives that demonstrate the connection between the love for one's body as it is and the love one feels for the natural earth. Read full book review >