Reflections on a friendship initiated 40 years ago in high school and reestablished across an ocean and a great cultural and spiritual divide.
Banner (In Full Flower: Aging Women, Power, and Sexuality, 1992) and her friend Fran gravitated to each other in Inglewood (Calif.) High School, where football players were heroes and pom-pom girls their consorts. Banner and her friend were athletic, academic, and ambitious - that is, out of the popular mainstream. They supported and nurtured each other, with Fran's mother, Lydia, an artist and musician, providing inspiration for Banner, whose mother had died. The two friends' paths diverged at college, with Banner moving on to graduate school in New York City, an upwardly mobile marriage, and feminism. Fran's path was spiritual; with her first husband, she helped to found the Lama community in New Mexico and ultimately converted to Islam, settling with a second husband in Alexandria, Egypt, changing her name to Noura, and wearing the veil of the Muslim woman. How could two friends, so similar in adolescence, have taken such different paths? asks Banner. She doesn't answer that question exactly, but in the attempt she describes the bridge generation of women who came of age in the late 1950s, already rattling the cage of June Cleaver but not yet free of primary commitment to home, husband, and children. Banner is now, she says, a pupil, if not a devotee, of a Sufi practice once popular at Fran's Lama community. Exploring the past that brought them to these crossroads, Banner delves into family histories. Disturbed by Fran/Noura's willingness to submit herself to her husband, Banner is nevertheless encouraged by a new view of Muslim women, exemplified by Fran and by Jihan Sadat, that permits them to think, study, and act as powerful individuals.
A spiritual quest that encompasses the roots of family and friendship - it will resonate with the women of Banner's generation and beyond. (25 photos, not seen)