Autobiography of an Elderly Woman

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9780916366797: Autobiography of an Elderly Woman

"A few years ago my partner in the book business came home from a wearying excursion to a barn in Southwest Harbor, a small town in downeast Maine. Her car was full of second-round choices from the collection she had bought, books she had rejected the first time. Among them was the book you have just read. To me, her aging friend, she said 'This looks like it might interest you.'" Thus begins Doris Grumbach's Afterword about her discovery of Autobiography of an Elderly Woman, a book long out of print in a trade edition and written by a mysterious author. The subject of this "autobiography" is the onset of old age. The author calls to us across the century in a voice that is utterly convincing and timeless. Speaking just after the turn of the century - the book was first published in 1911 - the elderly voice rejoices in grandchildren, complains of the constraints that one's children and society place on older people, muses on the approach of infirmity and death and celebrates the motto, "as soon as you feel too old to do a thing, do it." But there is mystery behind this voice. Doris Grumbach explains her solution to that mystery in her Afterword: "Now, what about this cultivated, authentic-sounding, feisty old lady who, it seems, sat down to write anonymously about her life? Who was she?..."

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About the Author:

James Jennings is Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Director of the Trotter Institute, he is the author of numerous books, including "The Politics of Black Empowerment, Understanding the Nature of Poverty in Urban America, Race and Politics", and "Blacks, Latinos, and Asians: Status and Prospects for Activism".

From Publishers Weekly:

The nameless narrator of this moving study of an aging, feisty, cultivated widow and mother of four adult children defines the secret of growing old wisely as laying aside meaningless social convention and, instead, acting spontaneously. ``Every moment of our lives we are preparing for age; carving out the faces that we are to wear,'' she observes. Spry and defiant, she rebels against the constant interference of her overprotective children, who fret about her health, stuff her with pills and tell her how to behave. Longing for her dead husband's companionship, she gives advice and nurturance to one son, a somewhat arrogant bachelor, and draws close to her grandchildren, thereby closing the circle of generations. It's remarkable that this strikingly modern account of growing old was first published in 1911. It's more remarkable still that it was the work of 37-year-old Mary Heaton Vorse, Greenwich Village bohemian, radical journalist and eventual editor of The Masses, who wrote it in the voice of her mother. Despite a genteel stiffness to the prose, her narrative is a clear pool of wisdom and an antidote to the assumption that old age need be a time of isolated uselessness.

Copyright 1995 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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