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Written by Herself: Volume 2: Women's Memoirs From Britain, Africa, Asia and the United States Paperback – Unabridged, September 17, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In contrast to the first volume of Written by Herself (LJ 12/92), which showcased the singular achievements of American trailblazers in a variety of fields, this second volume of women's memoirs is concerned with the ways that women have engaged the forces of social and political change around the world. Conway (True North, Knopf, 1994) has selected the autobiographical excerpts with an eye for expedient storytelling rather than comely prose, and her editing is merciless. Her choices of British, African, and Indian women are strongest, including Vera Brittain's moving account of the devastation of her generation in World War I; Elspeth Huxley's portrait of a changing African through a child's eyes; the activist Ruth First's powerful South African prison narrative; and Meena Alexander's exquisite "broken geography" of her cosmopolitan memory. The "postcolonial" American selections (by Vivian Gornick, Gloria Wade-Gayles, and Edith T. Mirante) are more uneven. Together, however, the volumes form an excellent starting point for group discussion and schools in exploring the rich contribution and consciousness of women of vastly different backgrounds.?Amy Boaz, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Inside Flap

In this powerful new collection, the author of two of the most celebrated memoirs in recent years presents the autobiographical writings of 14 of her English-speaking predecessors and contemporaries. The women who tell their stories in Written By Herself, Vol. II represent three generations, four continents, and a range of experience that is equaled only by the diversity with which they transform life into literature.
Here are England's Vera Brittain, commemorating the deaths of the men she loved in the carnage of World War I; Emma Mashinini, who endured imprisonment and torture as a labor organizer in South Africa; Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, the daughter of Indian aristocracy who became an architect of her country's independence; and Edith Mirante, the wisecracking American whose passion for justice took her to the opium trails of Burma. Collected in this stirring volume, their voices demonstrate the ways in which women strive for power, inclusion, and autonomy-- and never fail to move, inspire, and instruct us.
Contributors include: Margery Perham, Isak Dinesen, Shudha Mazumdar, Vivian Gornick, Vera Brittain, Elspeth Huxley, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Gloria Wade-Gayles, Angelica Garnett, Emma Mashinini, Meena Alexander, Edith Mirante, Mary Benson, and Ruth First.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 1st edition (September 17, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679751092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679751090
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,004,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
WBH is a fascinating selection of 20th century women's autobiographies. Any collection pointing readers toward Vera Brittain's anguished, exquisite "Testament of Youth" is worthwhile, but there's still more to admire here. It's confined to Anglophone countries, and literacy itself ensures a self-selecting sample of exceptional women. But within these limits there is wide variety, making it valuable for womens' studies, sociology and world history. Indian memoirs by Alexander, Mazumdar and Pandit form an especially coherent section on the nationalist movement there, as do the South Africans to a lesser extent. Many chapters highlight the crucial role of education in broadening horizons and opening doors, while offering insight on fundamental aspects of relations between women and men. More detail on authors and their countries is needed, and readers may miss the full diversity of the originals. But Conway does well to include lengthy excerpts instead of mere snippets maximizing the number of contributors. (The title evokes "The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano ... Written by Himself," an early narrative from the Black Atlantic.)
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