Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review: What A Woman Is Worth

Caveat: I've known Tamara for years now, and have come to love both her writings and her as a friend. When she announced this series on her blog and the subsequent book it was going to lead into, I could not wait to read everything associated with it, and even contribute my own little piece. You can order your own copy of Tamara's book (although she'd probably flatly deny this is "her" book as much as it is "everyone's" book) here

For the most part, guys are never taught how to emotionally affirm one another aside from the occasional "I hear ya" or "Dude..." snippets of "being open" that we let slide between us in conversation, using both phrases interchangeably for both good news and bad. We almost dismiss the notion that sharing the deep emotional connections associated with opening ourselves up with one another can bond and bring a sense of unity in struggles and joy as well as rating our belches after eating spicy food can. But if we are truly honest with ourselves, the head-shaking worthy mystery we ascribe to women and their ability to open themselves up and let the past flow freely - many times to complete strangers - is something we yearn for at the deepest core of ourselves.  

What A Woman Is Worth, at the basic level, is a collection of first-person essays from women who are opening their stories and their lives up not to scrutiny but to community. And in doing so, they gift the reader with illustrations of both healing and pain that, regardless of gender, individuals can connect with and find parts of themselves in.

From the opening lines of the introduction, WAWIW grips the reader. Not so much that the narratives told in the anthology from almost three dozen women grab your face and force you to stare unblinking into the experiences being shared; rather, the tone and structure of the chapters, deftly edited and arranged by Tamara Lunardo, makes the work feel as if the author of each piece quietly reaches out their hand to yours, and they gently hold it and gaze into your eyes as a portion of their life story unfolds for your benefit and theirs. The end result is humbling and manages to convey a sensation of shared loss between the reader and the author over the chapters in their lives they discuss.

While some might dismissively and erroneously assume that WAWIW contains tale after tale of how these women were mistreated by the fathers/boyfriends/spouses in their lives and it drained them of a sense of self-worth, the variety and range of personal experiences shared by the authors show time and again how generationally, socially, and institutionally we as a people have failed to break cycles, stereotypes, and patterns of abuse. As a father of two boys, this book contains lessons and illustrations that I needed reminders of on how to show forth dignity and love to their mom especially but to women in general. More than simply an outlet for venting, therapy, or crying out against injustice towards a gender, WAWIW shows hope on every page. This hope comes in the form of that in sharing these stories, a trail is not so much blazed as it is illuminated for others who may find themselves on similar journeys.

From cover to credits, WAWIW is quite possibly one of the best anthology books I have ever read. The cover illustration alone could be scrutinized for months - the lone woman, carrying her baggage with her head covered, back turned to the reader, walking down a long, wide path while barefoot. I personally imagine the face of the woman on the cover to be smiling a bit, head lifted towards the sky. She's not shedding tears for the path behind her as much as she is drawing comfort in the knowledge she has the strength to face whatever else may lie down the path before her.

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