Here are stories of the strange ways -- sexual and cultural, sweet or sour -- in which people perform their humanity. Some live out the roles their families have assigned to them -- the kind or cruel aunts, the straight or bent uncles. More break away and reinvent themselves, either through impersonation or by making new lives in another country.
Common to all the stories is the "outsider," through all the various registers -- political, social, sexual -- that the word can imply. The worlds these stories create are the dreamlike, shattered landscapes where alien cultures collide and coexist, inhabited by characters who are alien to one another and to themselves.
Meet, for example, Clara Diamant, "a rising academic star in her early thirties," who seems a model of innocence while studying and espousing postmodern theories of perversion. Or Robby, whose love for a young boy dying of tuberculosis is viewed through the uncomprehending and yet uncannily suspicious eyes of his wife. There is also the narrator of "A Wave of the Hand," who gradually comes to realize that her father is a woman. (She takes this bit of news remarkably well.)
The author, herself, slips in and out of these fictions, which weave back and forth across the track of her own life. Born in England, she came to the United States in the sixties and carried the alien's green card for two decades. Drawing on the varied resources of history, invention, and memoir, these are tales of the alien as Other -- and also as Oneself.
Praise for Her Own Terms:
"Replicates for the reader the confusion, the sense of dislocation from self, the inability to recognize what is demeaning, self-denying, that many women experienced who grew up and were educated in the '50s and early '60s. Its achievement is that it does this without cant, without dogma, without a grain of self-pity." -- Sue Miller, New York Times Book Review
"No matter how brilliant the minds at Oxford, Judith Grossman seems to be saying, they're in the service of a system unspeakably cruel to the lower classes and to women... Mothers, grandmothers, buy this one for your daughters." -- Carolyn See, Los Angeles Times