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—from BookWomen, February-March 2011
|Interested readers can order A Longing for Wisdom directly from the author: email@example.com. For more information about her work, visit her website at: www.patriciaedmistenbooks.com. |
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BookWomen subscriber Nancy Trowbridge, who reads, gardens and creates a life in middle Tennessee, writes here about a new book by her friend, BW subscriber Patricia Edmisten.
The title of BookWomen subscriber Patricia S. Taylor Edmisten's new book—A Longing for Wisdom—could be the title of her life, and the book's subtitle focuses on one chapter of that life: "One Woman's Conscience and Her Church."
What a chapter it is, a mix of lyrical prose set to the rhythm of poetry, memoir and fiction, with a trove of family photographs, spiced with bible verses and quotes from others, and tied together with thoughtful and provocative commentary.
Although Edmisten writes from her Catholic roots and branches, the questions she poses and analyzes are pertinent across the religious spectrum, the highly patriarchal spectrum.
Here's a sampling of the subjects she scrutinizes: the grace with which poor women meet their days, her mother's suicide, the ever-present solace of nature, the promise of young girls, her struggle with the injustices within a Church she loves. She writes from a deeply felt and considered wellspring; her words are not strident but luminous, often earthy, unflinchingly honest.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Edmisten now divides her home place between Pensacola, Fla., and Montezuma, a mountain community in western North Carolina. The story of her life has many interesting chapters, including:
"Social justice advocate": Edmisten was one of the original Peace Corps volunteers, serving and working in Peru. As an unrepentant social justice advocate, she organized Patriots for Peace, a Pensacola group that peacefully demonstrated against the invasion of Iraq. She has marched to protest the U.S. role in arming and training the Contras to fight in Nicaragua. A writer, of, as she tells it, letters of desperation to the newspaper and various officials, she expresses the often unspoken conscience of the community.
"Teacher": Edmisten's early teaching career was devoted to special-needs children and teaching their teachers. She taught at several universities, and in later years, she combined her concerns with poverty, women's issues, and education as director of International Education and Programs at the University of West Florida at Pensacola. Over the years she has addressed numerous gatherings, on a variety of issues, many of which form the chapters in "A Longing for Wisdom."
"Relationships": Wife, mother, grandmother, friend-these relationships are the bedrock of Edmisten's personality, of her life. From her deep love of family, and the large circle of friends who are sweetly treated as family, springs her conscience, which impels her to random and precise acts of kindness and teaching.
The little children-her grandchildren, the children of the world-are the hope of the world. Their future she fiercely fights to assure.
"Writer": Always writing, even as she washes dishes, cooks, and does the myriad "quotidian mysteries," as author Kathleen Norris would say. Edmisten has received the National Peace Corps Writers Award for Poetry. She has been a longtime member of the West Florida Literary Federation and is currently its president. The author of six previous books, she works to find the right voice, to create with words as she creates her life.
As a close friend of Edmisten over the decades, I know her marvelous sense of humor, her many acts of kindness toward friends and strangers, her abiding love of family, her love of her Church in spite of itself-all of which are part of the "her-story" that is the fertile ground of her writing.
Edmisten is also an eclectic reader. She and I constitute a two-woman book club, sending good reads back and forth via mail.
This past year many of our common authors were African. We read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's The Thing Around Your Neck and Half of a Yellow Sun, as well as Uwem Akpan's novel, Say You're One Of Them. J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace was another shared read, along with Jung Chang, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China and Jill Ker Conway's The Road From Coorain.
Anything written by William Dalrymple or Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Julia Alvarez or Wendell Berry is always a choice. Her favorite poet is the earthy Chilean, Pablo Neruda, and she grounds herself in poet Mary Oliver when the world becomes too complex.
Read Edmisten for yourself. Her works are a curl-up-with-a-cup-of-tea type, riveting and can't-put-down. She's still a work in progress and the next chapter is likely being written as she lives.
Patricia Edmisten's other books:
The Mourning of Angels, fiction
The Treasures of Pensacola Beach and Wild Women with Tender Hearts, poetry
Nicaragua Divided: La Prensa and the Chamorro Legacy
Kennedy's Children, screenplay
The Autobiography of Maria Elena Moyano: The Life and Death of a Peruvian Activist, translation & prologue
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