Imagining Ourselves:
Global Voices from a New Generation of Women

edited by Paula Goldman


New World Library, 2006. ISBN 1577315243.
Reviewed by Duffie Bart
Posted on 04/24/2006

Nonfiction: History/Current Events; Anthologies/Collections; Nonfiction: American Women in Their Cultural/Historical Context

I hope this review will do justice to Imagining Ourselves: Global Voices From a New Generation of Women, a compendium of achievement-oriented women compiled by Paula Goldman with the assistance of the International Museum of Women (www.imow.org). The women are between the ages of twenty and forty, and have made extraordinary contributions to their families, communities, economies and societies. They come from every corner of the globe, from Beijing to Bogota, San Francisco to Saint Petersburg, Cairo to Calcutta. Each offers her individual story: her experiences and goals. We learn of the many obstacles they encountered in their anti-feminist cultures that could easily have prevented them from achieving their goals. But each in her own way overcomes them due to her determination to express herself, to make an impact on her personal world and on the world at large. Each is determined to be in charge of her own destiny.

As a woman in my seventies, I am an ardent admirer of this book because it inspires all women, not just the age group of the younger women chosen for its pages. Women are often not encouraged to plummet their creativity, to go into the world which in many cultures remains the domain of men. And so women have become somewhat timid and uncertain of their own capacities. Imagining Ourselves reminds women in general that their abilities exceed their own appraisals, and that they can prevail inspite of the financial and emotional roadblocks so often in the way. The book displays the talents and attitudes of 105 women from 57 countries and serves as a primer for women everywhere. I feel immensely gratified, in our current world of violence and insecurity, to view this compendium of women who so admirably claim and exercise their power.

Imagining Ourselves offers page after page of women expressing their beliefs, their creativity: we are shown photographs, paintings, poems, stories, essays, business acumen, talents without boundaries, often achieved under crushing adversity. The book is a convincing reminder that women can indeed change the course of our violent world. It is the voice of Erika Hibbert who speaks about young women in South Africa mending the collective wounds of apartheid. It is the voice of Jessica Loseby from England who talks about successfully having a family despite being confined to a wheelchair - something that would been virtually unthinkable for a disabled woman even a generation ago. It is the voice Mayerly Sanchez who, in the midst of Colombia's civil war, had the temerity to organize youth against the violence. She orchestrated a historic national vote in which thousands of kids and teenagers across the country went to the polls to make a highly televised statement against the violence. And one month later, as a result, tens of thousands of adult Colombians also went to the polls to demand an end to forced kidnapping and abuses of children associated with the war.

"Mayerly did not grow up as an elite member of her society. She did not have access to extraordinary wealth or networks of privilege. She ... was simply a young woman with a good idea who did not stop to question the proposition that she could make a difference in the world." Imagining Ourselves is a provocative and illuminating book that contains a uniquely diverse selection of young women who remain true to their ideals.

Ms. Goldman sees her book as a kind of conversation... to be used as a tool to unite women, a conversation she hopes all women will join. It needs to be said here that these women represent the middle and upper-middle classes of their countries, women who have had the benefits of education and technology; they are not the voices of the poor and underprivileged.

Ms. Goldman stresses two points I particularly appreciate: one, that fulfilling their dreams requires women to exercise more patience and persistence than they originally anticipated. It is easy to get discouraged, to allow despair to get the upper hand, and throw in the towel too quickly, too soon. Her other interesting point is that the realization of their dreams rarely looks the way they expect it will look, and that they need to remain flexible in order to accept the new and different outcomes that may, however, lead them where they wish to go. The beauty of creativity, Goldman reminds us all, lies in its unpredictability and we need to recognize that this is good, that this is an invaluable part of the creative process.

The brilliant Chilean author, Isabel Allende, has written the Foreword of this book. She writes of her childhood and the repression suffered by women in her country. How being born female was the biggest disadvantage, how she, along with others, rebelled against the many unfairnesses perpetrated against them, and how life slowly changed for women, particularly after the invention of the birth control pill. However, she stresses that much still needs to be done, that she does get depressed from time to time, and how grateful she is that this book landed on her desk to remind her that women are feeling empowered today as never before.

Indeed, this meticulously assembled collection reflects the indomitable spirit inherent in women. I, too, believe we are moving more and more into an era of matriachy similar to that experienced in eras past. And the inspiring contents of Imagining Ornselves: Global Voices from a New Generation of Women is ample proof of this fact.

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