In 1938, while tensions in Europe are reaching a boiling point, four young women with big ambitions enter secretarial school in San Francisco. Motivated to attain the financial stability that eluded their parents, they go to battle for their futures. Moira, of Scottish descent, dreams of being an actress. Ann yearns for the education her Jewish immigrant parents provided for her brother, but not for her. Japanese American Wanda experiences firsthand the racial injustices running rampant in the United States.
Susan is an activist. And yet, though her political ideals form the center of her life, she questions her convictions. At the heart of this string of interconnected stories are tensions among ideas, feelings, and action. Miner deftly interweaves Susan's story with the tales of women whom Susan will never meet. The result is a textured and enveloping book that creates a sense of universality.
Assistant professor Nan Weaver, an outspoken feminist, is working toward tenure at Berkeley. Nan's blue-collar family left her with a legacy of endurance and hard work, and she is dedicated to her ideals and her students. But Nan's bold campaign against on-campus sexual harassment may be putting her career prospects in jeopardy. When an infamously chauvinistic male English professor turns up dead in his office, everyone suspects activist Nan. But she is innocent.
Twenty-five years ago, a group of five high schoolers trekked through the High Sierra. Now, two of them - lesbian Kath and straight Adele - come back to repeat their journey and renew their friendship. In chapters that alternate between the women's voices, they reveal their pasts, their thoughts, and their reactions both to the scenery and to each other. For Kath, the sublime topography of the Sierra is inspiring and invigorating. Adele is more trepidatious.