RavePloughsharesCompulsively readable and tenderly hilarious ... We All Want Impossible Things is one more reminder of Newman’s characteristic blend of self-deprecation and openheartedness ... The book doesn’t pretend or indeed attempt to resolve grief but watches it with warm eyes, invites its readers into grief’s impossibilities without false comfort but with unremitting gentleness ... I wasn’t sure I could read another book about another woman besieged by cancer, another unspeakable loss ... But the novel buoyed me up instead.
RavePloughshares... true songs about pain and fear ... Yes, I mutter, feeling the deep relief of lines that voice something my flesh mostly knows in silence: both the curse of disease and the tattered edges like grace. The poems, by turns beautiful and brutal, name something of my experience of faith as well ... Pilgrim Bell welcomes me with songs of collective personhood—the way our hearts could fit in each other’s chests—even as it calls me to question my false innocence. At points, it goes so far as to shock with images so apt you can almost miss their violence ... in the book’s wide range of allusion and reference, Akbar has curated an expansive poetic and spiritual conversation, one that unfolds not in generalizations but in concrete points of reference ... Within this richly populated spiritual conversation, I feel at points like Akbar is whispering directly into my ear, filling up a cup inside me that I didn’t realize was empty.
Adrienne Rich, Introduction by Eula Biss
RavePloughsharesIt is easy to forget how groundbreaking Rich’s first prose book was, with its blend of research, personal experience, and theory, and its exposé of the patriarchal expectation that mothers be passive, silent, self-sacrificial carers ... Rich broke silences by admitting the deep ambivalences at the heart of mothering, the extraordinary love and secret fury ... I’ve long found personal resonance in Rich’s description of the struggle to be home with young children while also seeking to do intellectual and creative work. She writes of the agony of incessant interruption, and she writes frankly of the rage that can result ... What I didn’t expect in the rereading of Of Woman Born, however, was how uncannily similar Rich’s descriptions of the mid-century institution of motherhood would sound to my experience of pandemic ... Rich is a beacon of self-revision, self-correction: having written the tome on The Institution of motherhood, she ended up fracturing her own totalizing theory with a picture of the many institutions—gender, sex, race, class, education—that in intersecting ways debar women (and men) from a free and creative experience of parenting.