Woman:
What She Has Done With Where She Has Been

by EJ Phillips


PublishAmerica, Baltimore, 2002. ISBN 1591296064.
Reviewed by Susan Wittig Albert
Posted on 12/12/2002

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Anthologies/Collections; Nonfiction: American Women in Their Cultural/Historical Context

Woman: What She Has Done With Where She Has Been is a book about all of us. It is the story of 15 ordinary women who met the challenges of their lives with courage and determination. There's Tina, a recovering alcoholic who gave up her baby and lost custody of her other two children, but has gone on to gain her bachelor's degree and become a case manager in an AIDS advocate agency. There's Carol, whose husband left her for another woman, so she started all over again. Renee, who left her grown children in England and moved to America. And Emily, who dreamed of owning a retreat center. Women who crashed and burned, and rose up from the ashes. Women who wiped their tears, picked up their dreams, and adventured on toward their goals.

"It was time to begin my new season," one of the women says, and she speaks for all of them.

I enjoyed EJ's Phillips's collection of stories very much, but when I finished reading about the 15 women, I wanted to know more about her. From the back of the book, I learned that EJ, a Story Circle member, had three dreams: to live in Santa Fe, to marry the man she loved, and to inspire with her writing. (She has done all three.) From EJ's website I learned more: that she was a high school dropout with three children. She left an unhappy marriage, educated and supported herself, and created a professional life as a political campaign coordinator, an Elderhostel program director, and a speaker and writer. I also learned more about the way she collected and worked with the women. "I consider my role in this project largely one of editor," she says. "They lived the stories, I just put them on paper and edited their words."

I hope, when the second edition of Woman is published, that EJ will include an introduction that tells us more about her own story, why she thinks these particular stories are important, and how she came to meet the women whose lives she reveals in her book. But while we're waiting for EJ's own story, there are good stories to be read, and inspiring lessons to be learned in Woman. I encourage you to find a copy and start reading!

You can read an excerpt and order a copy of the book on EJ's website. You also can send her your contribution to her next project: a collection of stories about the ways couples adjust to the challenges of retirement. Looks like we'll have another book from EJ before very long!

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