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When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice | [Terry Tempest Williams]

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice

Terry Tempest Williams's mother told her: "I am leaving you all my journals, but you must promise me you won't look at them until after I'm gone." Fans of Williams's iconic and unconventional memoir, Refuge, well remember that mother. She was a member of a large Mormon clan in northern Utah who developed cancer as a result of the nuclear testing in nearby Nevada. It was a shock to Williams that her mother had kept journals. But not as much of a shock as what she found when the time came to read them.
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Publisher's Summary

The beloved author of Refuge returns with a work that explodes and startles, illuminates and celebrates.

Terry Tempest Williams's mother told her: "I am leaving you all my journals, but you must promise me you won't look at them until after I'm gone."

Fans of Williams's iconic and unconventional memoir, Refuge, well remember that mother. She was a member of a large Mormon clan in northern Utah who developed cancer as a result of the nuclear testing in nearby Nevada. It was a shock to Williams to discover that her mother had kept journals. But not as much of a shock as what she found when the time came to read them.

They were exactly where she said they would be: three shelves of beautiful cloth-bound books.... "I opened the first journal. It was empty. I opened the second journal. It was empty. I opened the third. It too was empty.... Shelf after shelf after shelf, all of my mother's journals were blank."

What did Williams's mother mean by that? In 54 chapters that unfold like a series of yoga poses, each with its own logic and beauty, Williams creates a lyrical and caring meditation of the mystery of her mother's journals. When Women Were Birds is a kaleidoscope that keeps turning around the question "What does it mean to have a voice?"

©2012 Terry Tempest Williams (P)2012 Wind Over The Earth

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3.8 (258 )
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3.7 (230 )
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  •  
    John Dona Ana, NM, United States 05-31-14
    John Dona Ana, NM, United States 05-31-14 Member Since 2008

    Powakee

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not About Birds!"
    What did you love best about When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice?

    In the context of story telling when the writer discovered 'the secret' she did not dwell so much on what could appear as an obvious disappointment but immediately began a search to understand the meaning of the gift and the meaning of a life as looked at through both her eyes and her mothers' eyes.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I enjoyed the many pearls of wisdom dropped by the author along the story line. There are not many people who can write a short book and SLAM the reader with insightful revelations into the human condition and still make the reader want to continue the book to the end. This author did that very thing magnificently!


    What does Terry Tempest Williams bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I always enjoy hearing an author read their own work. Her voice, the speed, emphasis, pauses these interpretations of her own work helped me 'hear' the voice in the story. I found, many times while going through this book, sheer wonderment that the voice I was hearing was the voice of the writer. She wrote this story very nicely and her voice brought out the 'shine' that lay within those words. She was great.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    A film would detract from this story.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Angel 03-01-15
    Angel 03-01-15 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    33
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    "Sophmoric"

    I respect what this author is trying to do, but she needs more education and practice when it comes to writing poetry. I'm a writing instructor for teenagers and adults. I'd give this a "B" for "Best Effort."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott 02-10-15
    Scott 02-10-15

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A discovery."

    There are many topics and issues in this work, still, unexpectedly, it came together as a complete whole.
    'When Women Were Birds' is part memoir, part natural history writing, part clear-eyed social commentary, and all poetry.
    The writer does a very fine job of narrating her own writing, which adds dimension to the listening experience. Enjoyable to listen to, and gives much food for contemplation.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Chicago, IL USA 10-16-14
    Amazon Customer Chicago, IL USA 10-16-14 Member Since 2014

    KathrynVB

    HELPFUL VOTES
    19
    ratings
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    19
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    "Wonderful story read by its author."

    I am glad that I was introduced to Terry Tempest Williams in this book. It is a wonderful book about womanhood in the Mormon community of Utah. How does a woman communicate when her religious tradition insists that she remain silent? How does this religious tradition live out in the relationship that Mormons have with the land? It helps that the book is read by its author, as her inflection is important in giving you a sense of her true feelings. That is as valuable as the words themselves.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Angela 10-06-14
    Angela 10-06-14
    ratings
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    5
    5
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    Performance
    Story
    "I cut the sound off after listening for 2 minutes!"
    Would you try another book from Terry Tempest Williams and/or Terry Tempest Williams?

    Not if she were the narrator.


    What could Terry Tempest Williams have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Get a great narrator, with a more soothing voice.


    How could the performance have been better?

    Voice sounded itchy and scratchy at times


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    I purchased this book and I really loved the read! I thought I'd listen to it narrated by the author, but It threw me for a loop!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kirsten WASILLA, AK, United States 09-09-14
    Kirsten WASILLA, AK, United States 09-09-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Chick flick read"

    This was not what I thought it would be.... But it turned into a more interesting read than I expected. It's always curious to hear how other parts of the world live and function in comparison to your own upbringing.

    Her values and the different issues that surround women do have interesting points and she brings a unique observation and perspective to what women face vs. men. I would recommend this book for other women and for men, if they are open to issues that ONLY women face.



    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    cjfquilts Denver, CO USA 09-04-14
    cjfquilts Denver, CO USA 09-04-14 Member Since 2014

    I listen to Audible so that I can read and do all that Mom stuff as the same time. I do see the words as they are read.....

    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
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    "Touched My Soul"

    This is testament to being a wife, a daughter and a woman in an age where it was difficult to know which way to go. It is about experiencing the death of all the strong women in your family and not knowing how to reconcile that with your life. I bought the book for my mother for her 85th birthday. She will love it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cindy Olympia, Wa 08-01-14
    Cindy Olympia, Wa 08-01-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not great"

    Somewhat interesting book, but was not really very intriguing. Good if you have insomnia and need some help falling asleep.

    The rest of this review is blank, just like her Mothers journals.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    shira5665 Fort Langley, BC, Canada 06-20-14
    shira5665 Fort Langley, BC, Canada 06-20-14 Member Since 2010

    I'm a professional dog trainer who loves to read. I have degrees in English and Adult Ed. I love well written books that take me away.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Wonderful writing!"

    If you like first person narrative and enjoy autobiography, you'll love this book. It's articulate, thought provoking and beautifully written. I immediately listened to it again, and the second time I actually wrote down some of her beautiful imagery and insights. I highly recommend it. It would make an awesome book club selection.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diana 06-12-14
    Diana 06-12-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    479
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    Story
    "Power. Change. Awareness. An Experience."

    When I first downloaded this Audible book, I wasn't ready for it. I was in the midst of a comedy and action jag to offset some educational books.

    But we need balance. This quiet and powerful book offers the balance we need in days of rushing and stressing and filling in minutes with sound or movies. This book offers the gift of introspection, self-examination, contemplation of life and the world.

    How can one person take the same words we all have access to and put them together in such meaningful sentences? How can an author take the same thoughts and experiences we have all had at some point . . . the mistakes, regrets, wrong turns, hopes, goals, and warm moments . . . and put these thoughts in words that become a book like a painting is created with strokes and dabs of color.

    When I was done with the funny and action books, I turned back to Terry Tempest Williams' book, and listened with awe to her rich and quiet and solemn voice.

    It is both a look inside a Human and at all Humanity at once.

    It is a special experience to go through this book and when I reached the end I knew I had been touched and changed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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