More than a Patchwork
- Carol Shields (Editor) and Margjorie Anderson (Editor)
Dropped Threads 2: More of What We Aren't Told. Vintage (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Judith Plessis
When I attended a reading of the original Dropped Threads in Vancouver, I was directed to the overflow room of a modest church in Kitsilano as the main congregation hall was packed. This “standing room only” reception represented the enthusiasm felt all over the country about women’s storytelling. We were eager to hear secret narratives—stories we hadn’t been told! After the success of the first collection published in 2001, many Canadian women wanted to tell their stories, and the editors made it possible by inviting submissions for Dropped Threads 2.
But one does not have to have read the original Dropped Threads to enjoy the sequel. Dropped Threads 2 has used the idea of reader participation to produce an even broader and more inclusive anthology than the first. The new collection draws on the insights of women from many walks of life and depicts more multicultural and diverse experiences than the original collection. The second generation of Dropped Threads contributors could look to the first stories, gain confidence in writing about experi- ences they hadn’t previously felt comfortable sharing, and fill in what was missing from the original collection.
Dropped Threads 2 is slightly longer than the original, with an organised table of contents divided into four chapters: “End Notes,” “Variations,” “Glimpses,” and “Nourishment.” Each of these categories is a loose grouping of about nine stories, on a similar theme. The insights come from the experiences of each author, but many of the stories have strong political overtones. “End Notes” deals with feminist topics such as rape, brutality against women, child abuse, and attempted suicide. “Variations” focuses on several challenges for women, including widowhood, psychiatric illness, breast cancer, and single motherhood. “Glimpses” shares musings and private thoughts that have shaped the authors as adult women writers. “Nourishment,” as its title indicates, explores motherhood and the friendships between women here in North America as well as in third world countries. The final story in the last chapter, “Speaking of Dying” by Shelagh Rogers, is a poignant tribute to its subject, Kate Carmichael, and posthumously to Carol Shields herself.
The writing by all the contributors in Dropped Threads 2 is honest and eloquent. The book includes several well-known Canadian authors such as Jane Urquhart, Sandra Martin, and Michele Landsberg. It is hard to forget the horrific description of child rape and the victim’s emotions in Pamela Mala Sinha’s “Hiding” or the anguish of being unable to conceive a child, in Lisa Majeau Gordon’s “An Exercise in Fertility.”
There is also humour in this anthology. For In “Ten Beauty Tips You Never Asked For,” Elizabeth Hay discusses skin creams and lotions before lamenting that nothing really works to stop the process of decay. In C.J. Papoutsis’ “They Didn’t Come With Instructions,” the author’s self-deprecating wit nudges us to think of examples of our own trials in child raising.
In her thoughtful foreword, Adrienne Clarkson explains the power of these individual “vignettes”: “Perhaps that is what women’s lives are really like—snowflakes with infinitely different patterns, complete in themselves.” I did not discover these “snowflakes,” however, by reading the collection chronologically. I explored essays from one chapter and then moved on to another section, often returning to reread a story with a new awareness a second or third time. Readers of Dropped Threads 2 will be amazed to partake in such illuminating conversations with complete strangers.
- Transcending Boundaries by Yaying Zhang
Books reviewed: Dead Man's Gold and Other Stories by Paul Yee and The Jade Necklace by Paul Yee
- CanLit Inter-nationally by Debra Dudek
Books reviewed: Tropes and Territories: Short Fiction, Postcolonial Readings, Canadian Writings in Context by Marta Dvorak and W. H. New and Trans.Can.Lit: Resituating the Study of Canadian Literature by Smaro Kamboureli and Roy Miki
- Specificity, Métissage by Susan Knutson
Books reviewed: New Perspectives on Margaret Laurence: Poetic Narrative, Multiculturalism, and Feminism by Greta M. K. McCormick Coger and Postcolonial Subjects: Francophone Women Writers by Karen Gould, Mary Jean Green, Micheline Rice-Maximin, Keith L. Walker, and Jack A. Yeager
- Peopling the Wound by Stuart Sillars
Books reviewed: Home by Mark Macdonald, Drought and Other Stories by Jan Thornhill, and Drying the Bones by Madeline Sonik
- Problematic Relations by J. Russell Perkin
Books reviewed: From a High Thin Wire by Joan Clark, Last Notes and Other Stories by Tamas Dobozy, and Translating Women by Bill Stenson
MLA: Plessis, Judith. More than a Patchwork. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #185 (Summer 2005), (Stratton, Compton, Morra, Wylie, Gordon). (pg. 180 - 181)
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