A thought-provoking, informative, and valuable literary analysis.

THE BOOK OF OLD LADIES

CELEBRATING WOMEN OF A CERTAIN AGE IN FICTION

A literary critique examines portrayals of older women in fiction.

Throughout her life, Saxton has known many strong older women, like her mother, aunts, and grandmothers, who—despite the physical challenges of aging—possessed a lifetime of spirit and energy. As a professor of English at Mills College in Oakland, California, the author attempted to introduce her students to fiction that celebrated the vibrancy of real-life women, but she was often disappointed. Instead of stories about positive aging, in which women over 60 years old became their “truest selves,” Saxton noted that much fiction about older women was structured like “Deathbed Bookends”—in other words, the tales opened and closed with the memory of a youthful (often romantic) past, and the protagonist’s glory days were sadly over. In this well-organized presentation, the author lays out a thoughtful analysis of works of fiction from the 20th and 21st centuries, like Tillie Olsen’s powerful short story “Tell Me a Riddle” and Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg’s comedy-of-errors novel, The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules. Thirty stories are examined in five categories—"Romancing the Past,” “Sex After Sixty,” “Altered Realities,” “It’s Never Too Late,” and “Defying Expectations”—and each segment contains illuminating critiques of six tales grouped into pairs. Saxton’s conclusions are memorable; for example, in Chapter 1, she writes that Katherine Anne Porter’s short story “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” and Susan Minot’s novel Evening both use Deathbed Bookends for their structures. The comprehensive work concludes with a compelling analysis of Margaret Drabble’s complex 2016 novel, The Dark Flood Rises. Though the chapters feel like individual essays that could be used in the classroom, Saxton’s beautifully fluid prose would be a pleasure to read while relaxing at the beach.

A thought-provoking, informative, and valuable literary analysis.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63152-797-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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A complex and relatable set of works about the depths of loss.

VOICES OF THE GRIEVING HEART

In this new edition of a 1993 poetry collection, Bernhardt and other various poets reflect on grief.

The anthology is a meditation on bereavement, which almost everyone will experience at some point in their lives. The poems chronicle the loss of children, spouses, friends, and parents, and themes of light, ocean depths, prayer, pain, and even screams recur throughout. As John Fox, founder of the Institute for Poetic Medicine, writes in his foreword, “Contained herein are bone thoughts”—an apt description of the poems’ sparse, plain, and raw emotions. Several works effectively address how the loss of a loved one irrevocably becomes a part of those left behind: “Grief becomes your shadow, / leads you slowly,” Ivy Sandz writes in “Instructions for Letting Go,” and the speaker of Annie Brook’s “The Journey” tells a deceased person that “there is a place in me where you live.” Among the additions to this edition is a timely section that specifically addresses Covid-19 deaths. Furthermore, some of the poets who appeared in the original anthology reflect on their relationship to grief almost three decades later in a section titled “Time Passes.” These short, prose reflections help to elucidate the ways in which grieving, and its attendant struggles, intertwine with life’s everyday routines. The last 10 pages of the book are left intentionally blank, “reserved for your voice, for your own poems or writing.” Overall, the book clearly illustrates how one’s relationship with loss is circuitous and multipronged, as Mike Bernhardt’s poem “Buds at the End of Winter” makes clear: “My grief lives on in me, / an old moldy stump / rotting soft in the woods. / Or a tree in late winter, / buds appearing / red and green on bare branches.” It’s an excellent anthology for anyone in the throes of similar emotions.

A complex and relatable set of works about the depths of loss.

Pub Date: April 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9642810-1-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Cypress Point Press

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2021

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A superb tool for young dancers, full of accessible poses to mimic.

DANCING SHAPES

BALLET AND BODY AWARENESS FOR YOUNG DANCERS

A ballet dancer presents beginning positions and discusses body awareness in this picture book designed to get readers moving.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, a young White dancer collaborated with her mother to create videos, aiming to inspire others stuck at home to start moving. In this book by Once Upon a Dance, Konora (her stage name) recounts her ballet journey, complete with beautiful photographs of her onstage performances over the years, before launching into the types of instruction she has shared on YouTube. After providing solid warmup directions that will help kids visualize the movements, Konora describes ballet’s traditional five positions as well as basic instructions for performing pliés. Then she calls for readers to create shapes with their bodies, using their imaginations to mimic animals or fashion other poses. The clear, white backgrounds put the images of Konora in stark relief, and the lighting underscores each position’s details. Pages at the beginning and end offer students other shapes to mimic, and Konora urges readers to invent their own. The small font and frequently text-dense pages may intimidate newly independent readers. But confident readers and parents can use the work as a prompt to move in new ways. Konora emphasizes that “Dance is for everyone!” and encourages awareness: “Always be gentle with your body. Don’t do anything that hurts.” With constant support and innovative descriptions that will spark imaginations, Konora invites readers to share the joy of dancing.

A superb tool for young dancers, full of accessible poses to mimic.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73598-440-7

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Once Upon A Dance

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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