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Just beneath My Skin: Autobiography and Self-Discovery Paperback – October 11, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Writing autobiography allows me to open up a vein of self-scrutiny, to peer through the slippery veil of what we call ‘character’ to define my own peculiar subjectivity," explains Foster (All the Lost Girls), and she ably opens up just such an examination in this lyrical collection of personal essays. Organized into three sections that demarcate the stages of her creative life, Foster’s slim volume probes the conflicting worlds that she occupied on her way to becoming an associate professor at Iowa’s prestigious M.F.A. program. For Foster, the main struggle has always been with identity and desire; even her descriptions of childhood bristle with conflicts between her own pre-feminist ambition and the conventional mores of her rural Alabama hometown. The tension reaches its pinnacle in the 1970s when Foster, a recent divorcée, leaves Fairhope for freewheeling Southern California, where she enrolls in a visual arts program and serendipitously discovers her affinity for the written word. Foster explicitly sets out to reconcile the opposing forces of her history in the book’s third section, where she travels back to Fairhope as professional writer and reconsiders the race, class and gender politics that influenced her youth. Filled with moving and humorous anecdotes, as well as with serious considerations of autobiography’s aims and methods, Foster’s collection is bound together by beautiful prose and unflinching honesty. Clearly, she herself adheres to the advice that she dispenses to her students: "Writing requires risk." And it is this sort of truthful scrutiny that extends her collection beyond its apparent subject matter: "the life of a southern girl who ran away from the South but who, deep in her bones, feels the pull of that history, that story."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Foster candidly examines her life in a collection of autobiographical essays that belie its title by bringing to the surface the realizations she experienced on the path toward self-discovery. Using her upbringing in the rural South as a springboard, Foster explores the influences that shaped her, from womanly stereotypes to the times in which she lived to hidden insecurities and desires. She realizes along the way that focusing on her desire to create, specifically to write, leads to a clearer understanding of her very essence. Although writers can feel alone and alienated, Foster seems to have found a place of redemption, where she is at home living beyond the ordinary, which, in turn, infuses her writing with its notable lyricism. Though a lifetime in the making, her story is told with the grace and ease of a "yesterday" discovery. Janet St. John
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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