Late one night I came downstairs in my pajamas, excited, asking Sam if I could just read him a little bit of something. He was still up, tending his fire, watching a movie that he kindly paused so he could listen. At which point I read him more than a little bit. I read him most of an interview with Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a woman who is actually a dear friend from my ward in Cambridge. She's famous, in part, for penning the sentence that shows up on bumper stickers and t-shirts all over the place: "Well-behaved women seldom make history." She won a Pultizer Prize and a MacArthur Fellowship, she teaches a killer Sunday School lesson, and she's my hero.
Anyway, I had gone to bed worrying about how I would do everything I wanted to do, how I would do something that mattered to me and also take care of my baby. It was in the thick of my posts about figuring out working and motherhood, and it was such a relief to read her interview, which answered pretty much everything I was wondering about, and then some.
Her interview is in this book, Mormon Women: Portraits and Conversations.* Listen: you should read this book. I love this book. I remember hearing about it some time ago, when it came out, at the time I was too cheap to buy it, but now you can buy it used for like five bucks, and it's worth it. Oh, it's worth it. The book collects interviews with fourteen women from different countries and in different professions, converts and single women and women with significant health problems to overcome and all sorts of other challenges. And they are articulate and wise and passionate, and talk about the loads of good they do in the world, and tell such marvelous stories, and I wanted to keep on reading this book forever. Our diversity as Mormon women is astonishing, and beautiful.
I want to quote everything, but then there would be no reason for you to read the book yourself. And you will love it, so I won't ruin that for you. But here's one bit from an interview with a woman named Catherine M. Stokes, a public health administrator who was born in rural Mississippi and joined the Mormon Church as an adult. Her interview is feisty and down-to-earth. Here's a snippet:
"I come back to the importance of knowing who you are. If I believe I am the daughter of the power that created the universe, I have more power than I will ever be able to use. Now, if I believe that, than I act in a certain way. Not in arrogance, but in certainty. If I believe that I came here to be challenged and refined, to grow and develop my talents, then I should be ready to take on any task. You have to know who you are and you have to internalize that. And if you want to know whether you have accomplished that, then look at what it is you're doing with your life. That's the real deal, versus what you say you believe."
--Catherine M. Stokes
You see what I mean? Don't you want to read a lot more good stuff like that? Then this is the book for you, my friend. If you've already read it, what did you think? If you end up reading it, I'd love to hear at some point down the line.
*My apologies if you're not Mormon, and I'm writing here as if you are, and it's irksome. I do think this book would be worth reading, even if you're not Mormon. It's about strong women, and we need those in every faith. There are footnotes in the book to make you familiar with unfamiliar terms.