OCTOBER 22, 2011
IN SO MANY WAYS, this is a memoir of a life lived on the knife-edge of feminism: between the rocks and the hard places that women have experienced forever, but particularly in the second half of the 20th century in America. Some doors opened, were squeezed through, then slammed shut, trapping women like Blew in lives filled with unprecedented challenges. Blew, who grew up on a ranch in Montana and has written for years about her life in the West, was pregnant at 18, married, and able to continue her education, eventually earning her PhD with a dissertation on the comedies of Ben Jonson, with money from her grandmother. After a few years, with two small children, she remembers the anxiety, the first feelings of not being good enough, never getting enough done. In 1969 she was offered an assistant professor position at Northern Montana College, where she taught until 1987. Meanwhile, her family life exploded around her: one marriage lost; another, to a man she fell wholly in love with, was destroyed by his pulmonary fibrosis ; a son who stopped speaking to her for 25 years; a daughter beset by depression; money worries that seemed to never end. Where is there room for a scholar in this life? Where is the quiet time to think? Like Grace Paley and Susan Straight, Blew writes directly and indirectly about writing, about the working class, about children, about caring for grandchildren, and about trade-offs.