LETTERS OF INTENT by Anna Bondoc

LETTERS OF INTENT

Women Cross the Generations to Talk About Work, Family, Love, Sex, and the Future of Feminism
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A series of letters between 20- and 30-something women and their “foremothers” in the feminist movement, aiming both to bridge a generation gap and to elevate current discussion of feminist issues above the level of mere “sound bites.” The letters are organized in pairs, with a younger woman writing to her would-be feminist mentor with a question about women’s lives. The foremothers, who include Gloria Steinem, Susan Faludi, Angela Davis, Phyllis Chesler, Wilma Mankiller, and Judy Blume, among celebrated others, answer with reference to both history and personal experience. Somewhat arbitrarily divided into five sections, the subject matter ranges from sexuality to careers, health, spirituality, and what the future holds. A useful appendix offers biographies of all the writers. But does the book actually kick off a new round of women nurturing “a collective vision,” as Steinem envisions? Or is it messier than that, as poet/essayist Katha Pollitt explains to her former intern Emily Gordon, who wants all older women to be as supportive as Pollitt has been to her? Pollitt’s reply to Gordon: “Women are just people. Feminists are just people . . . preoccupied and self-centered . . . [possessed of] anxiety, self-doubt, envy.” In other words, get your own agenda, and don’t count on the mothers to be hand-holders. Davis and Chesler echo the get-a-life message. Editors Bondoc and Daly, themselves writers, contribute letters wondering about nutrition (to health educator Annemarie Colbin) and breast cancer (to activist Sandra Butler) respectively. Elsewhere, they—ve tried to hold the whiners in line—there are dialogues about women in the military and sports and about the Wiccan religion, lesbianism, and racism. A passionate, poetic conversation between Eisa Davis and Ntozake Shange relieves the generally polite tone of mutual admiration. While personal relationships may have developed between the writers of these letters, young and old feminists scrambling for millennial focus will not find it here.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-85624-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999