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The Women Outside: Meanings and Myths of Homelessness Hardcover – March 25, 1992

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 329 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1ST edition (March 25, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520071581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520071582
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,344,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this scholarly examination, freelance journalist Golden argues that we must banish our sense of separation from homeless women if we are to understand and help them. She draws on extensive research and four years' experience in the late '70s and early '80s as a volunteer at a private New York City homeless shelter. After opening with a detailed description of the lives of the female homeless today she devotes the latter two thirds of her book to an unusual interdisciplinary approach, in which she draws parallels between contemporary homeless women and the witches of myths and fairy tales; gives a historical overview of homelessness; and looks at the varying and highly subjective ways in which society has perceived madness, calling into question the assumption that many homeless women are mentally ill. These angles clarify much that straight reportage would not, and support the author's thesis that the images we associate with homeless women often say more about our society than they do about the women themselves. Yet the depth of analysis, as well as Golden's sometimes convoluted prose, is likely to limit the book's audience to academics who, in turn, may be disturbed by her overreliance, at times, on anecdotal evidence and personal opinion. A greater use of case histories and the inclusion of more comment from homeless women would have widened the work's appeal and made its arguments more persuasive.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Golden, an editor and medical writer, staffed a New York City shelter near Times Square for four years while gathering material for this interdisciplinary work. Describing the literature on homeless women as "scattered and inchoate," the author incorporates the use of images as a method of analysis in the construction of several useful paradigms, including the traditional figure of the witch to explain the sexual dynamics and powerlessness in both old and young homeless women. Drawing from her experiences at the shelter and from an extensive reading of women's history, psychology, sociology, literature, and myth, Golden delivers a compelling psychological portrait of these women within a socioeconomic context in the hope of creating an improved connection between these women and society in general. It includes an interpretation of a Grimm's fairy tale, a definition of marginality, and the histories of both homeless women and "madness" throughout the ages. Highly recommended for all women's studies collections.
- Christy Zlatos, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullman
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Got the Girl Scouts' Writer badge (the only one that interested me) when I was 12: that signaled the future. I began writing fiction, but discovered that what really compelled me was literary nonfiction--especially once I developed a way to use a central image as a method of analysis.

An image constrains and focuses thoughts while allowing you to come at your material from many different directions without losing coherence, since the analysis acquires its form from the structure of the image.

I used this method for both my literary nonfiction books:

* For "The Women Outside," a study of homeless and marginal women, it was the figure of the witch.

* "For Slaying the Mermaid," about women and self-sacrifice, it was Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid.

Literary nonfiction didn't pay the rent, but I like writing books, so I became a book collaborator and wrote six other books with experts. (For a series of articles on how book collaboration works, see my website:

And since for a freelancer diversifying = security, I started writing all sorts of other things: magazine articles, newsletters, reports for nonprofits, grant proposals, training manuals, and lately websites.

The one question people always ask me: "How do you have the discipline to get anything done when you work on your own?" It's simple, I tell them: when your income depends on it, you get motivated. Besides, I like it. Writing is a pleasurable activity, even when it's really difficult.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The title of this review is a bit oblique, but it is the best I could do to bring to life a time when so many of the women of the 1970s whom I knew in New York City - restless, talented, sensitive, feeling valueless in the society we lived in - became aware of the many homeless women around us. We called them "bag ladies." We would get off the subway, on our way to work we didn't love and that didn't satisfy but was necessary, and meet the open hand and often howling mind of a woman in rags, hungry for far more than our spare change could ever buy for her. Sometimes she would shout at us, whether we gave her money or not. Sometimes she was clearly lost in a mind-world far far away. We would say to each other, in whispers, "I could be that bag lady." And we meant it.

We were struggling to find a place, work that was meaningful, a sense of community, in a city as big as a not-small country, and she was struggling to stay alive. She terrified us. We felt that we were slowly losing control, slowly sliding into her life. We felt helpless to prevent it.

Most of us didn't become homeless, of course, no matter how near madness we skated. We had enough sense of self to do whatever it took to survive and to continue to move on. But we didn't forget these women. We had quite limited access to education and opportunities that would help us achieve meaningful and secure lives. But whatever we lacked (that our brothers did not), we had far more than these women did. (Why us? Why them? There but for . . .) Still, too often, meeting the outstretched hand and the wild eyes, we flinched away. Not because we didn't feel but because we felt all too rawly.

Stephanie Golden did not flinch.
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