The best books on growing into womanhood in different locations but in the same era

Joan Rudd Author Of Building Solid: A Life in Stories
By Joan Rudd

Who am I?

"Two tickets to ride!Most people get only one life.... and on only one coast. This book is an overview of an era 1948-2020 of cultural shifts and expectations for "girls". At seventeen I left my family and NYC for college, a commune, and then art school on the West coast. Visual artist, woman, mother, and descendant, Joan describes the lifetime challenges that she has met with creativity, humor, and resilience. Two NW cities, two marriages, and two sons born 23 years apart inspire many of her stories. 

I wrote...

Building Solid: A Life in Stories

By Joan Rudd,

Book cover of Building Solid: A Life in Stories

What is my book about?

In frank and emotionally rewarding stories, a woman recalls her life from a feminist, Jewish, and largely humorous perspective. Her stories and her prose are delightful and sometimes hilarious, illustrated with original sculptures, drawings, and photographs. "Each story is a lovingly curated memory."

Growing up the youngest in a family of multilingual refugees, where each generation spoke a different language, caused her to turn to art to express feelings for which she had no words. She has an ability to write like a bright child thinks and feels. The variety of her life’s experiences allows her to formulate insights about memory that many people would enjoy. A fulfilling, cheering, and comforting book overall, describing (the kind of) wisdom that only time can impart

The books I picked & why

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A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep

By Rumer Godden,

Book cover of A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep

Why this book?

Rummer Godden’s autobiography A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep offers the stories, context, and sense of place for many of her novels. I so enjoyed her ability to write like a bright child thinks about the world, as well as how she is feeling. It is laugh-out-loud funny in spots, despite describing the dislocation of war.

A House with Seven Windows: Short Stories

By Kadya Molodowsky, Leah Schoolnik (translator),

Book cover of A House with Seven Windows: Short Stories

Why this book?

Kadya Molodowsky’s book of stories, A House with Seven Windows are stories mostly set one half of a generation off of my own, just far enough to be recognizable. There is one story about parents investing in a stylish winter coat for their daughter in order to render her more marriageable in appearance for the “market.” My own parents did the same for me when I left for college!

How to Make an American Quilt

By Whitney Otto,

Book cover of How to Make an American Quilt

Why this book?

How to Make an American Quilt is a novel stringing together wonderful interconnected stories told across a couple of generations and incorporating descriptions of sight, smell, and touch. “I am not the kind of person to throw something away just because it is broken. I would not waste what could still be of use,” says one of the main characters who goes on to explain that quilts are made of “spare time” and “excess materials.”

Mothers Matter Too

By Jenny Phillips,

Book cover of Mothers Matter Too

Why this book?

Mothers Matter Too is an extraordinary compendium of stories, thoughts, and statistics about women at home with children. Her helpful chart of the “rules” applicable to each stage and “role” of a woman’s life (from girlhood to cronehood) is still revelatory even years after the resurgence of the Women’s Movement. This book is also about the active listening skills critical to supporting a new mother as she struggles to regain her confidence.

My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging

By Rachel Naomi Remen,

Book cover of My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging

Why this book?

This book is filled with gems of description and of insight into the human condition. Presented as wisdom passed down lovingly by the author’s grandfather, these stand alone stories build up to a book of thoughtfulness. She writes movingly of herself as a little girl who learns faithfulness through watering a paper cup of soil and seeds until they sprout. Equally movingly she writes as a doctor about a patient, a “man of vision” who does not fit into any existing mold and is thereby isolated by his “deep sense of difference” from others. 

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