Friday Reads: When Women Were Birds


“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 


A library staff member put a most unusual memoir on the staff picks shelf.  Author Pam Houston describes it as “much more than a brave and luminous memoir.”  Author Rick Bass calls it “a wise and beautiful and intelligent book.”  And author Sue Halpern calls it “gorgeous.”  When Women Were Birds:  fifty-four variations on voice by Terry Tempest Williams is all of those things, wrapped in a modest little white package.

When Williams’ mother was one week from death, she promised her daughter her journals, but stipulated that Williams could not read them until after she was gone.  When the time was right, Williams located the neatly arranged journals and was surprised to find blank pages.  All of them were blank.  Shelf after shelf of blank journals.  We get some semblance of the shock ourselves when we flip several blank pages in this book.  It is disconcerting.  Imagine being a woman for whom words hold such power, an author who writes beautifully and who loves her mother unconditionally … imagine her finding these blank journals.  In this memoir we follow along her emotional journey as she tries to fathom why her mother did this.  The result is a meditative, poignant and unique exploration for which there is no answer which is well worth the read.  Just don’t be in a hurry.

You can find this book on the staff picks shelf.

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