Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations…

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice

by Terry Tempest Williams

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2461346,727 (4.04)20



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 20 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
This was a super slow starter for me....then I just felt pretty neutral about it.....just eh for me - one of those that I didn't care for myself, but I would recommend to others because I think it hit on things some of my friends could relate to a bit more. ( )
  KristiAnneS | Jul 26, 2016 |
This is a wonderful, poetical, lyrical, highly personal book. You have to take the author where she is, while she tries to fathom who her departed mother was. What does one make of a pile of journals (left to the next generation) empty? Was this a voice frozen or free? This book talks about parents and children and legacy, meeting or missing. An overarching message is that when we realize we really cannot fully know someone else, we started thinking about what we know of ourselves. Ultimately, this book is thought provoking, and whether this was one of the author's intentions or not, it can certainly provide a valuable (non-didactic) stimulus to anyone who wants to sit in a guided (by reading) meditation on family and other relationships. ( )
  qoe | May 18, 2016 |
Amazing read recommended by a local librarian - so glad! ( )
  viviennestrauss | Feb 17, 2016 |
Re-read 7/9/2015 ( )
  rivercityreading | Aug 10, 2015 |
When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams; Library; R/L bookclub; (2 1/2*)

This is a tough one for me to review.

On the one hand I enjoyed most of the writing. But on the other hand I found Williams to be quite tiresome at times.

The book is a memoir (could have/should have been a journal) and I think a tribute to the mother of the author who died of cancer in her 50s. The family is Mormon and it is the duty of the women in this culture to keep a journal throughout their lives while the men write the story of their own lives.
Williams' mother left to her the entirety of her journals, not to be read until after her demise. When, upon her mother's death, the author went to find the journals she found three shelves filled with beautifully cloth bound journals and not ONE single word in any one of them.
This narrative has been written to show women and especially Mormon women their voice. It is written with beautiful, flowery prose which at times is meaningful but at other times seems to just be pretty words upon the page. Throughout the book the author throws labels of her mother's journals in sporadically.

"My Mother's Journal's are paper cranes."

""I belong to a Clan of One-breasted Women." These words flew out of my mind after a friend simply asked, "How are you?" I could not know then what I know now, that this image allowed me to see the women in my family as warriors, not victims of breast cancer. Twenty-two years later, these words, this image, "When Women Were Birds," came to me in a dream without explanation."
"Were We?"
"Are we still?"
"Or are we in motion, never to be caught? We remain elusive by choice.
"I am a woman with wings," I once wrote and will revise these words again. "I am a woman with wings dancing with other women with wings.""

"In a voiced community, we all flourish."

I kept waiting to find something of real depth between this small book's covers but alas, it was not to be. I did enjoy the book simply for the words that I found lovely and have decided to ignore the rest. I think that had this not been a book chosen for my R/L bookclub, I would not have read it. ( )
2 vote rainpebble | Oct 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374288976, Hardcover)

The beloved author of Refuge returns with a work that explodes and startles, illuminates and celebrates

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?”


Note: blank pages are intentional.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:32 -0400)

In fifty-four chapters that unfold like a series of yoga poses, each with its own logic and beauty, Williams (beloved author of "Refuge") creates a lyrical and caring meditation of the mystery of her mother's journals .. and what it means to have a voice beyond a selfless existence informed by children and a husband.… (more)

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
67 wanted1 pay2 pay

Popular covers


Average: (4.04)
1 1
2 2
2.5 2
3 9
4 18
4.5 5
5 19


An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 111,745,953 books! | Top bar: Always visible