Terry Tempest Williams
Thursday, March 14, 2013, 7:00 P.M., City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco

reading from the paperback release of

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice

from Picador Books

Terry Tempest Williams's mother told her: "I am leaving you all my journals, but you must promise me you won’t look at them until after I’m gone."

Readers of Williams’s iconic and unconventional memoir, Refuge, well remember that mother. She was one of a large Mormon clan in northern Utah who developed cancer as a result of the nuclear testing in nearby Nevada. It was a shock to Williams to discover that her mother had kept journals. But not as much of a shock as what she found when the time came to read them. 

“They were exactly where she said they would be: three shelves of beautiful cloth-bound books . . . I opened the first journal. It was empty. I opened the second journal. It was empty. I opened the third. It too was empty . . . Shelf after shelf after shelf, all of my mother’s journals were blank.” What did Williams’s mother mean by that? In fifty-four chapters that unfold like a series of yoga poses, each with its own logic and beauty, Williams creates a lyrical and caring meditation of the mystery of her mother's journals. When Women Were Birds is a kaleidoscope that keeps turning around the question “What does it mean to have a voice?”

Terry Tempest Williams  is the author of fourteen books, including Refuge, Leap, The Open Space of Democracy, and most recently, Finding Beauty in a Broken World. The recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship and a Lannan Literary Fellowship in creative nonfiction, she divides her time between Castle Valley, Utah, and Moose, Wyoming.