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Biting the Moon

A Memoir of Motherhood and Feminism

by Joanne Frye

Publication Year: 2012

Joanne Frye reflects on her experience as a literary scholar and single mother, seeing her life as the convergence of "three strands of contemporary culture; feminism, literature and changing ideas of motherhood."

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Prologue: Icy Bridges

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pp. 1-7

I noted the warning, though it was commonplace: BRIDGE MAY BE ICY. I usually find such signs amusing, heedless of seasonal change, incongruent in eighty-degree weather. But I know their purpose is serious: to remind of danger that can arise...

Part I: Family with Fissures: 1968–1976

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pp. 9-134

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1. Nascent Self

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pp. 11-26

When I was twenty-two and a first-year graduate student, a man who wanted to sleep with me said, “You’re just like a twenty-eight year old librarian.” He meant to insult me: to him, librarians were uptight, and twenty-eight was ancient...

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2. On the Farm

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pp. 27-36

Among the documents I brought with me to New York, I find a small blue box of ivory note cards, some blank, a few of them written on, left-over announcements of Kara’s birth. I remember hand lettering them with a fountain pen and black ink...

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3. Dealing with Bodies

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pp. 37-45

Last night I wakened from a dream with the weary assertion echoing in my head: “Once again I am going to have to wrest my story back from him.” In my dream, Lawrence was a secret corpse, my responsibility; I was lost in a swamp of judgment. I am so given over to this revisiting...

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4. Reading Redbook, Needing Feminism

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pp. 46-51

If I look out the window of my fifteenth-floor apartment, straight down, I can see the stream of traffic, dominated by bright yellow cabs, headed down Seventh Avenue through the Village toward exciting destinations farther south. I do not suppose...

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5. Making Lists

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pp. 52-61

I have long been a list maker. An obvious way to keep track of things, lists are also a way to tame a chaotic reality: the multiple pulls on time and energy. I especially like to find old lists by chance, lingering in a book, misplaced in a discarded purse...

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6. Placentas and Other Hungers

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pp. 62-73

I keep circling back, reviewing the early years of Kara’s life: turning the lenses differently each time, seeking the angle that will bring clarity. I write at night, in the hours that can’t be interrupted, hoping that the shards of memory will form a pattern...

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7. The Presence of the Father

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pp. 74-83

My calm felt so fragile—and so necessary to me and to Kara and Adriane— that even now I guard it assiduously in this construction of our lives. The easiest protection was to draw the circle of solitude around the three of us, to try to pretend...

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8. Fire

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pp. 84-88

In her childhood writings, Adriane—in London when she was nine, back home in Ohio when she was ten—wrote dramatic stories of a fire she could not have recalled. She wrote, from a baby’s point of view, of flames licking around her, her terror colored...

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9. Mythic Self

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pp. 89-95

My decision to leave did seem simple in the fall of 1975. And in the years that have followed—especially in times of weakness or timidity— I have relied on the image of myself at the moment of departure in its vivid simplicity. In this image...

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10. Outlaws and Conspirators

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pp. 96-104

Women sometimes hint at the pleasurably unstructured lives that they have with their children when husbands and fathers are away. They speak in conspiratorial hushes lest the men discover their possible treachery. So, too, with the memories...

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11. No Longer a Daughter-in-Law

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pp. 105-110

Though I had claimed outlaw status that first spring on my own with my daughters, I was still technically within the law of marriage. But I did not feel myself to be Lawrence’s wife. So I was uncertain of my family status when Lawrence’s father came...

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12. Celebrations

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pp. 111-117

Though my marriage to Lawrence had ended months if not years earlier, it was officially dissolved on May 15, 1976, two days before Harry sent his ineffectual letter. We had done the legal work very civilly, relying jointly on one lawyer between us and hardly wrangling...

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Sorting It Out: Reprise, 1994

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pp. 119-134

With my New York writing time nearly gone, I decide to venture out of my solitude on a sunny spring afternoon—a rare foray into a more public space, beyond the personal relationships that have otherwise sustained me during this period of introspection...

Part II: A New Life 1976–1989

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13. Entering Kauke Hall

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pp. 137-142

June 1998: I am ready to be back in Wooster, but my return from New York leaves me estranged. To reground myself, I walk each day through neighborhoods around the college campus, circling old territories. Apart from research leaves spent...

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14. Mommies and Monsters

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pp. 143-155

Now that I have resettled in Wooster after my New York sabbatical, my past and present seem even more entangled. Though it is 1998, a recent dream thrusts me back: the young mother who is me and not-me stands bare-breasted in a room...

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15. Why Are You Doing That?

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pp. 156-163

Summer has ended, and I have returned to campus. My time to write this book is gone, but I have barely begun to sort through my memories of those early years in Wooster. People ask me what I am writing about. They try to be supportive, but they wonder...

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16. Shards of Freedom

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pp. 164-175

It has already been a year since I returned to Wooster from my New York sabbatical. Teaching commitments have prevailed, though I try to resurrect the writing now that the academic year has come to an end. On these summer days, I often waken with the sun...

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17. Not Demeter

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pp. 176-190

September 2001. Among my courses this semester, I am teaching “Seminar in Women’s Studies,” a small group of students meeting Tuesday and Thursday mornings. We are currently investigating feminism in other cultures, focusing this week on the complexities of women’s activism in...

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18. That Crazy Carousel

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pp. 191-203

This narrative has no sequence, no clear cause and effect. I try to nudge the story forward, but instead keep circling over the past, caught in the whorl of life dilemmas, apparent contradictions. Now, at least, I again have a greater gift of time, a breather from classroom...

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19. Professor-Mother

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pp. 204-217

March 2003. Ron and I have just returned from New York—a visit to both Kara and Adriane in their ongoing lives there, but also a purposeful trip to help Kara pack up her East Village apartment, store away pieces of her life, so that she can take her next...

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20. Chang and the Girls

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pp. 218-227

A sunny September weekend in London, still 2003. We are here for Kara’s wedding, a day to celebrate publicly: thirty friends and family members will gather in simple celebrations as Kara officially joins her life with Andrzej’s. But I begin this...

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21. Rumors of Crickets

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pp. 228-237

Wilbur burst into tears. ‘I don’t want to die,’ he moaned. ‘I want to stay alive, right here in my comfortable manure pile with all my friends. I want to breathe the beautiful air and lie in the beautiful sun.’” I have found this...

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22. Vertigo

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pp. 238-250

The gaunt limbs of El Greco’s St. Sebastian held me captive. I stared at the sinewy muscles, yearning with my body, grieving with my body. How was it that these elongated thighs of a religious martyr could suggest both sex and death...

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23. Finding the Blue Door

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pp. 251-267

When you step into the Terraces, you enter a separate world, removed from the traffic of Cricklewood Broadway, from the pubs and clubs and greengrocers and retailers. Behind the larger trees that guard the entrance, a hush falls on the little parallel...

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24. Out from Cricklewood

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pp. 268-277

The squirrels have become giddy with late summer: somersaulting on the knoll across the street, chasing after apple green walnuts. Crickets and cicadas hum and buzz with humidity. In the evenings, Ron and I sit on the porch, looking across at the walnut...

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25. Bertha in the Attic

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pp. 278-291

Already it is October, the current semester well under way, the college providing one continuity in this life I am telling. Alone during the day for the brief respite of fall break, I claim this time as my own. With my crystal, I chase the light, the rainbows...

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Epilogue: December 24, 2005

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pp. 293-294

Julian’s face changes in fleeting moments, like clouds passing over the sun in the London sky. For a brief quiet time, I sit alone with my grandson, watching these changes: it is the morning of his first Christmas Eve. He, in turn, watches my face intently...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 295-296

I am grateful to the College of Wooster and to the Henry Luce III Fund for Scholarship at the college for invaluable support and release time to work on earlier versions of this book. I owe much to colleagues in the English Department and...

About the Author, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780815651727
E-ISBN-10: 0815651724
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815609698
Print-ISBN-10: 0815609698

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Writing American Women

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Subject Headings

  • Working mothers.
  • Motherhood.
  • Feminism.
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