I am re-posting this blogpost by request of the author of Wednesday sisters, Meg Waite Clayton. Today the book hits the shelves in paperback. You will want to read this book, trust me. It's been exciting to follow its journey through Meg's Facebook posts.
They're not sisters, and they don't get together on Wednesdays. So wherefore the title?
The group is five young mothers who met at a playground in the late 1960's. At first they gathered on Wednesdays, and over time they began to use the playground time to write--haltingly, even shamefacedly at first. A few began to take their projects more seriously, while others continued to write only because that's what the group was doing.
Meg Waite Clayton's story of their friendship against the backdrop of the social turmoil of the sixties and seventies is the backbone of the story; their individual growth, told through the voice of Frankie (or Mary Frances O'Mara, as she would prefer to be called), is what drives the story forward, and what kept me reading until almost midnight last night.
I grew up during the same time period, apparently just a few years younger than the book's characters. I remembered the protest against the Miss America pageant, the bra burnings, the war protests, the killing of Robert F. Kennedy, and the many other tumultuous events of the times. Like the women in the story, I lived outside of those events, watching them like a spectator on the sidelines.
I was in high school in northern Virginia in those days, and then married and raising babies. None of my brothers went to Vietnam or was drafted, and no one of my close acquaintances went to war either (which seems very odd, now that I live in West Virginia and realize how many of the men in this state did go to Vietnam, my husband included). I watched it on TV, and although opposed to the US involvement, I did not become actively involved. I was busy with learning to be a mother and a housewife.
Which is why I was fascinated and at the same time appalled by the women's movement. What did they want, after all? Years later, I understood. Years later, I looked back and wondered how I could have managed to be so personally unaffected by the message the women marching on the streets were trying to deliver.
As I read the story of Frankie, Ally, Brett, Linda and Kath last night, I listened to election returns. America is once again in a time of turmoil, and once again I am living in a time of historic change. This time I am more involved--my son served in the current war, my retirement plans have had to change because of the financial crisis, and we elected the first black president-- something I never expected to see, and something that makes me very proud of this nation. We are struggling, yet still moving forward, still filled with hope and the belief that this country can and will do great things for its people and those of the world outside our borders.
The Wednesday Sisters is a retrospective look at where we were 30-40 years ago. It is a reminder of how far we have come--from the days when a black man could not legally marry a white woman, from days when women were forbidden to run in the New York Marathon, to a time when women run for the highest office in the country and have shot at winning, and a time when race is discussed openly and a black man is elected our president.
I finished the book just as NPR was predicting Barak Obama's victory. The triumph of that moment was underscored by the story I had just read. We've come a long way, baby.
The Wednesday Sisters
by Meg Waite Clayton
Ballantine Books, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-345-50282-7 (0-345-50282-5)